NASA backs Omega system

NASA ,the U.S. space agency has thrown its weight behind a clever method of growing algae in wastewater for the purpose of making biofuel.

The OMEGA system consists of algae grown in flexible plastic bags floating offshore, where cities typically dump their wastewater. Oil-producing freshwater algae would naturally clean the wastewater by feeding on nutrients in the sewage. The cleansed freshwater could then release into the ocean through forward-osmosis membranes in the sides of the plastic bags.

Trenta bioengineer at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.   envisions harvesting the algae with barges every ten days, and then flushing the plastic bags with salt water to clean out any freshwater algae that might foul the sides of the bags or the forward-osmosis membranes. The algae would be turned into fuel in a manner similar to using corn to make ethanol.

Municipal wastewater pumped into the bags would then start the cycle all over again.

Such a process would mainly rely on the energy of the ocean waves to mix the algae, as well as sunlight and carbon dioxide. The offshore locations and the wide oceans would also have more than enough room to grow massive amounts of algae needed to produce biofuels for an energy-hungry world.

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