科學家在實驗生物學會年會(Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference)中，對與會者表示，掌狀昆布(Laminaria digitata)可能成為以陸上植物提煉生質燃料的重要替代品，不過隨著季節的不同，適合的化學成分組成也會變化。
燈塔計畫(Beacon for Wales)旨在開發新技術與新方法以取代傳統上用石油製作產品。目標是將威爾斯建立成為優秀的生質能提煉中心。
威爾斯第一副部長Ieuan Wyn Jones曾在2月時宣布，將由歐洲區域發展基金投入1050萬英鎊資金在這項計畫，計畫總預算預計為2000萬英鎊。
Seaweed that washes up in great piles along the coast of Wales may yield a viable future biofuel, especially if harvested in summer, Welsh scientists revealed at a scientific conference in Glasgow on Monday.
The use of a kelp known as Laminaria digitata could provide an important alternative to biofuels grown on land, but the suitability of its chemical composition varies on a seasonal basis, the scientists told colleagues at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference.
Harvesting the kelp in July when carbohydrate levels in the kelp are at their highest would ensure optimal sugar release for biofuel production, their study shows.
Dr. Adams, a microbiologist and fermentation scientist, says metals can inhibit the fermentation process so metal concentrations in kelp should be kept low.
Their results, presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference on July 4, showed that the best month for biofuel harvest is in July when the kelp contains the highest proportions of carbohydrate and the lowest metal content.
Kelp can be converted to biofuels in different ways such as fermentation or anaerobic digestion producing ethanol and methane, or by pyrolysis, a method of heating the fuel without oxygen, which produces bio-oil.
Past research into biofuels has focused on terrestrial plants; however, these have the drawback of the conflict between using land to grow food or fuel.
Marine ecosystems are an untapped resource that account for over 50 percent of global biomass, and Dr. Adams says seaweeds are capable of producing more biomass per square meter than fast-growing terrestrial plants such as sugar cane.
"Seaweed biofuel could be very important in future energy production," says Dr. Adams. "What biofuels provide that other renewables such as wind power cannot is a storable energy source that we can use when the wind drops."
Future work will improve the viability of the process by identifying and extracting high value substances, such as pigments and phenols, before the rest of the seaweed is used to produce biofuel.
The seaweed research is part of a new initiative at Aberystwyth University that could boost the green economy in Wales and make a contribution to combating climate change.
The BEACON program aims to develop new technologies and new ways of making products that are traditionally made from oil. The goal is to establish Wales as a bio-refining center of excellence.
Deputy First Minister for Wales Ieuan Wyn Jones in February announced £10.5 million of funding for the program from the European Regional Development Fund. The total budget for the initiative is expected to be £20 million.
The research involves bio-refining - developing sophisticated processes to turn locally grown crops into valuable chemicals and commercial products, from fuels to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, textiles, food and health products.