From Pond Scum to Power

  • By Melissa Salpietra
  • Posted 06.01.09
  • NOVA scienceNOW

With concern about the use of petroleum-based fuels at an all-time high, biodiesel is experiencing a popularity surge. And algae—otherwise known, to some, as pond scum—are grabbing headlines as the next potential biodiesel superstar. But how and why do algae make oil? And why do they make so much of it? In this audio slide show, U.C. Berkeley's Kris Niyogi describes the process and its potential.

Launch Interactive

In this animated primer, learn why algae and other plants make oil, and how algae oil gets converted to biodiesel.


Images and Stock footage

(Kris Niyogi)
© Courtesy Kris Niyogi
© Effinity Stock Photography/istockphoto
(textured background)
© delirium /istockphoto
(algae on pond)
© Joetex1/istockphoto
(Lyngbya cyanobacteria, Netrium algae, filamentous green algae, Botryococcus algae)
© Nancy Nehring/istockphot
© Tammy616/istockphoto
© BeholdingEye/istockphoto
(sun, water, oil droplet)
© O'Luk/istockphoto
© Daniele Comello/istockphoto, segniedi/istockphoto
© Nancy Nehring/istockphoto
© JulieVMac/istockphoto
(water video)
© Forrestbro/istockphoto
(cell, sugar, fatty acid)
© WGBH Educational Foundation
(oil bottle)
© Sapsiwai/ustockphoto
(tractor mowing)
© Eagle Eye Imaging/istockphoto
(algae on pond)
© alexeys/istockphoto
(aerial of algae pond)
© Blue Lemon Photo/istockphoto
© bedo/istockphoto
(gas jug)
© James Brey/istockphoto

Related Links

  • Algae Fuel

    In the search for alternatives to gasoline, are algae the answer?

  • Algae Fuel: Expert Q&A

    Biologist Kris Niyogi of U.C. Berkeley answers questions about all things algal.

  • Putting Bacteria to Work

    Bacteria help us in all kinds of ways, from fermenting foods to aiding medicine, cleaning oil spills to mining minerals.


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