The potential of algal biomass as a source of liquid and gaseous biofuels has been the subject of considerable research over the past few decades, with researchers strongly agreeing that algae have the potential of becoming a viable aquatic energy crop with a higher energy potential compared to that from either terrestrial biomass or municipal solid waste. However, neither microalgae nor seaweed are currently cultivated solely for energy purposes due to the high costs of harvesting, concentrating and drying. Anaerobic digestion of algal biomass could theoretically reduce costs associated with drying wet biomass before processing, but practical yields of biogas from digestion of many algae are substantially below the theoretical maximum. New processing methods are needed to reduce costs and increase the net energy balance. This review examines the biochemical and structural properties of seaweeds and of microalgal biomass that has been produced as part of the treatment of wastewater, and discusses some of the significant hurdles and recent initiatives for producing biogas from their anaerobic digestion.
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