Algae are tiny biological factories that use photosynthesis to transform carbon dioxide and sunlight into energy so efficiently that they can double their weight several times a day, producing oil in the process — 30 times more oil per acre than soybeans, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Like soybean oil, the algae oil can be burned directly in diesel engines or further refined into biodiesel.
University of Virginia researchers have a plan to greatly increase algae oil yields by feeding the algae extra carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas) and organic material like sewage, meaning the algae could simultaneously produce biofuel and clean up environmental problems.
"We have to prove these two things to show that we really are getting a free lunch," said Lisa Colosi, a U.Va. professor of civil and environmental engineering who is part of the interdisciplinary research team.
Most previous and current research on algae biofuel, explained Colosi, has used the algae in a manner similar to its natural state — essentially letting it grow in water with just the naturally occurring inputs of atmospheric carbon dioxide and sunlight. This approach results in a rather low yield of oil — about 1 percent by weight of the algae.
The U.Va. team hypothesizes that feeding the algae more carbon dioxide and organic material could boost the oil yield to as much as 40 percent by weight, Colosi said.
Proving that the algae can thrive with increased inputs of either carbon dioxide or untreated sewage solids will confirm its industrial ecology possibilities — to help with wastewater treatment, where dealing with solids is one of the most expensive challenges, or to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, such as coal power-plant flue gas, which contains about 10 to 30 times as much carbon dioxide as normal air.
Research partner Mark White, a U.Va. finance professor, will be quantifying the big-picture environmental and economic benefits of algae biofuel compared to soy-based biodiesel under several hypothetical scenarios. For instance, if the nation instituted a carbon cap-and-trade system, that would increase the monetary value of algae's ability to dispose of carbon dioxide. Increased nitrogen regulations would also bump up the appeal of algae, since it can also remove nitrogen from air or water.
"The main principle of industrial ecology is to try and use our waste products to produce something of value," Colosi said.
This research will quantify just how much "free lunch" algae biofuel promises.An extended version of this story are available at:
Lisa Colosi | Newswise Science News
Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences