Upstart Solazyme promises to make fuel from algae

It's not the first to turn to algae and biomass as a source of fuel, but upstart Solazyme seems to think it's got a leg up on other biofuel makers and its apparently lining up the deals and big bucks to prove it. As Technology Review reports, that includes Chevron, which is now in a "testing agreement" with the start-up, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which dished out a $2 million grant to the company. The trick that's attracted all that interest, it seems, is the company's particular way of using algae to convert biomass into fuel, which takes the apparently unorthodox approach of growing them in the dark, which causes them to produce more oil than they do in the light. What's more, Solazyme's method also apparently allows them to use different strains of algae to produce different types of oil, including a mix of hydrocarbons that's similar to light crude petroleum. Needless to say, all of this is still quite a ways away from finding its way into your car's tank, but the company has demonstrated its algae-based fuel in a diesel car, so it's at least moved beyond the lab.