One of the more interesting avenues for research on biodiesel development is in algae. Algae are a variety of microorganism that can create up to 60% of their mass in oil. Since the oil output of a crop is the essential measurement for producing biodiesel, this means that algae have the potential to easily outstrip other forms of production in the yield per acre.
However, cultivating algae into an oil producing crop is an expensive proposition. This makes producing biodiesel from algae significantly higher in overall cost than other forms of fuel production. While the theoretical yields from algae far out produce any other source, it is still considered to be financially insolvent as a commercial enterprise.
Algae do have immense biodiesel potential when put into applications where land (or water) area is at a premium. For instance, if one were to build a space station or bio-dome that would supply diesel fuel for various in-system uses, algae begins to make sense because the space has more value at that point. Using the most optimistic estimates, the US fuel needs could be met on about 15,000 square miles of biodiesel algae production. That’s less than one seventh the amount of land we currently utilize to grow corn; the current prospect for biodiesel conversion.