Watch Public Genomes, Algae Fuel, Mystery of the Gakkel Ridge,... on PBS. See more from NOVA scienceNOW.
Growing Algae for Biodiesel Production
We have begun to create a photo-bioreactor to harvest our first batch of algae. The algae will be grown and harvested for its oil content. The leftover biomass will then be composted on campus. Once an effective, efficient procedure is in place, a mobile photo-bioreactor will be created that can be brought around to high schools so students can see the entire process. All this is being done with the hopes that one day these efforts will spark the change we need to see in our species’ energy consumption habits.
“As part of my research fellowship in the Biodiesel Program, I have been allowed to pursue a passion of my own that, in my opinion, could be at the forefront of alternative energy. That passion is algae. I am currently starting a project involving the growth of algae. Growing algae? What could that possibly have to do with biodiesel? Well as crazy as it may sound, algae is one of the best sources for biodiesel feedstock oil. Studies have shown that production of oils from corn is around 145 kg/hectare/year, while microalgae can produce between 18,000 and 43,200 kg/hectare/year.
The only thing that is currently stopping a huge international outburst of algae farms is that there is a considerable gap between laboratory yields and farming yields, but there is a major effort being put into bridging the gap. It is my belief that the day will come when algae will be a prolific source of energy that we will be harnessed as an alternative to the fossil fuels we rely on now. For now, I want to help inform people of what algae can do for us, and I want to do so through the biodiesel lab’s outreach program to high schools.” – Alex Chellberg, Class of 2013