Algal Biofuels

The Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO’s) Advanced Algal Systems program supports early-stage applied research and development (R&D) to lower the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts.

The program works with public and private partners to develop innovative technologies and conduct crosscutting analyses that can sustainably expand algal biomass resource potential in the United States.

Commercial production-scale algae cultivation ponds.
Commercial production-scale algae cultivation ponds.  Image by Qualitas.

This work will help researchers realize the potential of an algal biofuel industry capable of producing billions of gallons per year of renewable diesel, gasoline, and jet fuels.

The Advanced Algal Systems’ project portfolio systematically addresses barriers along the supply chain—from production to logistics—to break down critical technical barriers and promote sustainable and affordable algal biofuels. To enhance its algal portfolio and engage key stakeholders, BETO regularly hosts algal biofuels strategy workshops to discuss the R&D needed to achieve affordable, scalable, and sustainable algae-based biofuels.

Learn more about BETO’s Advanced Algal Systems program on the related links web page.

Energy 101: Converting Algae to Fuels

The term “algae” refers to a great diversity of organisms—from microscopic cyanobacteria to giant kelp—which convert sunlight into energy using photosynthesis, like plants. There are over 100,000 genetically diverse strains of algae. This is an advantage for researchers, who can harness algal strains’ numerous unique properties to develop promising algal biofuels and bioproducts.

The key to algae’s potential as a renewable fuel source involves the increase of algal biomass productivity per acre. Some researchers say algae could be 10 or even 100 times more productive than traditional bioenergy crops. Achieving high productivity in real-world systems is a key challenge to realizing the promise of sustainable and affordable algal biofuels. Once harvested, algae can be readily processed into the raw material to make fuels for cars, trucks, trains, and planes. 

Check out our Energy 101: Algae-to-Fuels video below to learn more about algal biofuel R&D.