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Rising oil costs have sent fuel prices soaring in the United States, causing consumers to cut down on travel and in some cases, seek alternate transportation. While consumers have explored means to save at the pump, scientists have explored processes at the bench to develop alternative fuel sources. The race to develop alternatives to petroleum began not only to save consumers money, but also to save the environment.
And as they say, “What’s good for the SUV is good for the SC (stratum corneum).” All joking aside, some of the raw material sources for alternative fuels also are sourced for the production of personal care ingredients. Palm oil, extracted from palm tree fruit, is used in both bio-diesel fuel and personal care products.
Due to biodiesel demand, the price of palm oil has risen. Additionally, the deforestation of palm trees has turned many personal care companies away from using palm oil for environmental reasons.
In exploring alternatives, Geoffrey Brooks of Solazyme believes that he and his team of scientists have developed a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly process to turn algae into both a biodiesel and a personal care ingredient.
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple organisms that range from unicellular to multicellular. Like land plants, they are photosynthetic and therefore produce oxygen. While they lack some organs found in land plants, it is this simplicity that makes them useful. “Algae have evolved a sophisticated series of mechanisms that make them adaptable to different environments,” explained Brooks. “Because they live in a marine environment, they are adaptable to different depths and levels of sun exposure.”