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While they are cleaner and safer than fossil fuels, bioethanol production's ever-increasing need of valuable farmland for crops - like corn and sugarcane - could result to possible food shortages and price increases.
To answer this dilemma, a group of scientists from various universities in Israel have been looking at marine macroalgae, or seaweed. They have found that it can be grown more quickly than land-based crops and harvested as fuel without sacrificing usable land.
Avigdor Abelson, a professor of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology and the new Renewable Energy Center, says that growing the macroalgae for bioethanol production can also solve the problem of eutrophication along the coasts.
Many coastal regions, including the Red Sea in the south of Israel, have suffered from eutrophication - pollution caused by human waste and fish farming, which leads to excessive amounts of nutrients and detrimental algae, ultimately harming endangered coral reefs.
The scientists devised a man-made "ecosystem," called the "Combined Aquaculture Multi-Use Systems," which takes into account the realities of the marine environment and human activity.
The excess nutrients from man-made fish feeders, which are considered pollutants due to its harmful effects to the marine environment, could be used by filter feeders like oysters, which in turn produce food that could sustain the growth of more seaweed.
The researchers are now working to increase the carbohydrate and sugar contents of the seaweed for efficient fermentation into bioethanol, and they believe that microalgae will be a major source for biofuel in the future.
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