Coal Plant and Algae

Washington University’s Photosynthetic Research Center in St. Louis and the Advanced Biofuels Systems at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center recently received $35 million from the U.S. DOE to fund research related to the oil producing characteristics of algae.

Officials in the state said Missouri’s access to abundant water, flat land and fertilizer could make the state a hub for algae-to-fuel production. Also, Missouri has coal mines. With their constant temperature and controlled lighting, underground coal mines serve as ideal incubators. David Summers, professor of Mining Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, said that mines also potentially provide an infrastructure for algae cultivation that does not have to be built—the ponds, reactors and other paraphernalia usually associated with algae production.

“You can isolate the algae from the sun in a mine,” Summers said. “We have stable temperatures and underground ambient conditions, plus modulated light—this means better control.

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