It’s as slimy as it is unassuming, but algae could be the stuff the next great biofuel is made of. The simple organisms convert solar energy into an oily material that could, theoretically, be processed into a biofuel to power a car. But there are untold varieties of algae out there, the Wall Street Journal reports, and the hunt is on to find the right pond scum for the job.
Algae has always “been on the back burner of most people's minds,” says Jerry Brand of the University of Texas, curator of the world’s largest algae collection. “It's pond scum. It's seaweed.” Now, Brand is getting a steady stream of requests for samples, most from companies hoping to crack the oil code. They’re looking for an algae that both produces oil—not all do—but also grows quickly and readily.