Saturday , 25 January 2020

Armed with Science: Algae Jet Fuel?

This week on Armed with Science, Dr. Barbara McQuiston of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), spoke about a few interesting ways the Department of Defense is trying to revolutionize renewable energy sources.

“I think Peter Drexler always said it well … ‘If you want to control the future, you need to create it,’” McQuiston said. “So DARPA invests science and technology to make these changes. When we looked at energy, what we were looking at was the diversification of energy sources and moving away from a reliance on fossil fuel to create better energy security for ourselves now and in the future.”

Their plan? To create renewable biofuel using things like cellulose (“woody” materials), rich oil and algae. You read right: algae, the plant-like organisms that float around in the ocean, could one day fuel C-130s and F-16s. But the focus isn’t as much on what the fuel is made of, but where it can be made.

For example, all fuel used in Afghanistan needs to be shipped there. If bio jet fuel could be made from plant materials that could be farmed there, it would be a “game-changer” for the military operation there and the country’s economy.

“If you looked … at Afghanistan, if you could be able to create jet fuel from indigenous sources, and rely on that, you’d not only be able to be able to source energy for our military, but you’d be able to leave an infrastructure that would be more sustainable for the country,” McQuiston said.

To view the transcript, click here.