Rienk van Grondelle

Intuitive explorer


Reflecting on Holland, Rienk van Grondelle sees large water tanks full of algae. They make biodiesel, which could very soon solve our energy problems. “In ten years, these tanks will be a common sight.” And that thanks to the efforts of a biophysicist who originally only wanted to know how photosynthesis works.

“Nobody bats an eye at the potato fields in Haarlemmermeer, but people get all up in arms about wind turbines at sea. They fail to realize that space is needed not only for agriculture, but also for energy.” Rienk van Grondelle, Professor of Biophysics, finds that odd. He explains in his office at the university: “We need just as much space for our energy needs as we do for growing food. In the southern USA, agriculture devoted to energy production is already competing for space with agriculture for food production.” Add to that the fact that our addiction to petroleum will soon have to come to an end, and you realize: something must be done.

To escape the energy crisis, we will have to live with power generating facilities in our back yards, as it were. “With solar panels on almost every house, as you see in Germany today. And we need to start making better use of algae. The Loosdrecht lakes are full of algae. We need to realize a lakeside installation for harvesting it. I have calculated that sustainable algae production in the Markermeer lake alone can provide for 20 percent of our fuel needs here in the Netherlands.” Algae are an excellent biofuel that does not compete with our food supply, especially since many species of these single-cell plants also flourish in salt water.

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University Research Fellow
VU University Research Fellowship (URF) is a programme developed for a select number of internationally renowned scientists at VU University Amsterdam. It is a token of appreciation and a public tribute to the university’s most excellent scientists for their extraordinary research performances. These scientists will be entitled to reward the best student of their choice with a University Research Fellow which will carry their own name. In September 2012, VU University has ascribed URF to seven academics, among them Rienk van Grondelle.