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Production of biofuels needs to rely on cheap and renewable resources, in order to be economically viable and environmentally sustainable in the long term. An energy carrier could not be more environmentally friendly than the process to generate it. Solar energy represents the most abundant and renewable resource, and strategies for solar-to-fuel conversion have the potentiality to sustain our energy demands in the long term and to be carbon-dioxide neutral. On the other hand, development of a single biofuel, as efficient as it may be, would be insufficient in sustaining alone the global energy demands. Generation of advanced biofuels explores alternative technologies and feedstocks. Algae and cyanobacteria offer novel solar-to-fuel solutions that would not compete with food for arable land. The economic viability is discussed, with respect to potential future developments. Sustainability of the system also depends on domestication and genetic improvement of algal strains, as domestication of currently cultivated crops has been necessary for agriculture development, turning wild ancestors into a resource for humans. Emphasis is given to photosynthesis and light-utilization efficiency, that in turn determine solar-to-biomass yield, and to metabolic pathways converting primary products of photosynthesis into fuels. General concepts are explained for the benefit of both expert and non-expert readers.
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- Chapter 1