Algae buildings solves Climate issues?

Algae buildings solves Climate issues? The future of green technology is algae-cultivating buildings, synthetic trees, and heaps of white roofs, according to the U.K.’s institution of Mechanical Engineers. Andrew McFaul. Cultivating algae to make liquid fuel is one of the most active areas of study in biofuels. The institution is recommending that algae be amalgamated into buildings so algae can be grown at a big scale. How synthetic trees, which capture carbon from the air, could be deployed alongside wind turbines. Engineers envision that long plastic tubes, called photobioreactors, be integrated into building designs or retrofitted onto existing skyscrapers. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has in public offered this comparatively low-tech approach, which was studied in-depth at the Lawrence Livermore lab last year. The shape of things to come?Climate issues fixed by these a;gae covered buildings. labels:algae -cul tivating buildings- Andrew mcfaul


Filler up with microalgae

Biofuels Technologies Enterprises) of Cheyenne, Wyo. intends to commercialize a patent pending technology called direct liquefaction that produces bio-crude oil in a generator from biomass like wood, grass and cooking oils.

Titan Worldwide Inc. has signed a partnership deal with U.S. BTE bio-crude oil producer to help develop and manufacture a commercial refineries to make diesel fuel from biomass. Titan president/CEO Jay Currie calls the business potential for his firm “enormous” if their manufacturing deal with BTE (Biofuels Technologies Enterprises) of Cheyenne, Wyo. becomes reality.

Currie said the ideal biomass material is micro-algae which can be harvested easily can sustainably regrow itself within hours, has a high energy content and has as much as 86 per cent lower emissions than fossil fuel.

If microalgae could replace wood and cooking oil it would be the ideal biomass. Hope it materialises soon.

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Omega3 from Algae oil

Omega 3 algae oil is a relatively new product that has some decided benefits over other omega 3 supplements. Most people take fish oil in order to get adequate amounts of omega 3, and those who prefer not to take fish oil usually take flaxseed oil. These are not the only omega 3 supplements, but they are the most frequently used ones. Omega 3 from algae oil may replace both of them.

Although fish oil from reputable companies is regarded as safe, long term exposure through supplementation is often feared since trace pollutants from ocean ecosystems contaminate both fresh caught and farm-raised fish that feed on or are fed marine organisms. But now, golden microalgae oil is ready to replace medical fish oil for heart and brain health supplement needs.

Some types of fish contain relatively high levels of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], dioxins and other environmental contaminants. In general, older, larger predatory fish contain the highest level of contaminants. Fish can also contain significant levels of methyl mercury, considered one of the more dangerous food contaminants today. Can docosahexaenoic acid omega-3 (DHA)-rich microalgae oil function as a universal fish oil alternative?

Good for vegetarians! Concern over fish depletion in the oceans is also addressed by algae oil becoming source for omega 3.

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$1.3 billion for 19 Biorefinery projects

Among the top grantees are California’s BlueFire Ethanol Fuels and Sapphire Energy. BlueFire will receive increased funding of $81 million to aid construction of its Fulton, Mississippi ethanol facility.

The plant produces ethanol fuel from woody biomass, mill residue, and assorted municipal solid waste. Once complete, the facility will have the capacity to produce 19 million gallons of ethanol per year.

Sapphire Energy won a $50 million grant to support its work in Columbus, New Mexico, where it will cultivate algae in ponds that will ultimately be converted into green fuels, such as jet fuel and diesel. Ineos New Planet BioEnergy and Montréal’s Enerkem will also receive $50 million each.

The Ineos New Planet BioEnergy project will produce ethanol and electricity from wood, vegetative residues, and construction and demolition materials. Its Vero Beach, Florida facility will combine biomass gasification and fermentation and is slated to have the capacity to produce 8 million gallons of ethanol and 2 megawatts of electricity per year by the end of 2011.

The dangers of using GE on Algae

Genetic engineers are also involved in efforts to produce biodiesel from microalgae.

Such fuel production would obviate the need to take farmland production away from food crops, and GE proponents promise huge fuel yields from engineered algae.

But despite more than 100 companies already founded to produce biodiesel from algae, not a single commercial facility has been built. Indeed, like the wild plants proposed for plant seems particularly resistant to engineering. cellulosic biofuels, genetic experiments on algae are in very early stages, and so far, the

Finally, genetic engineers have re-branded their technology as “synthetic biology.” Called “genetic engineering on steroids,” and risks of the traditional GE approach, the difference being added complexity through attempting to insert simultaneously many DNA sequences for a variety of traits.

Synthetic biology proponents suggest the technology will produce unlimited quantities of fully lab-created biofuels, from enhanced microbes that will more efficiently produce ethanol, butanol or biodiesel.

But like earlier GE creations, products of synthetic biology will likely suffer unpredictable side-effects due to the unpredictable nature of the living organisms used as raw materials. Likewise, products of synthetic biology are created without regard to the influence of genetic factors outside of DNA (proteins, RNA and other genetic material), and may face unforeseeable problems.

Like earlier biotech promises of high yielding crops grown with fewer pesticides, the promises of life from fully inert materials will prove equally false, and potentially even more dangerous.

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Bay Area companies gets $72M in stimulus

Several California biofuels companies are winners of the government’s $600 million advanced biorefinery project stimulus award.

Emeryville-based Amyris Biotechnologies Inc., South San Francisco-based Solazyme Inc. and Lakewood, Colo.-based ZeaChem Inc., whose research and development facility is in Menlo Park, will share $71 million toward pilot plants to demonstrate their technologies.

Amyris will use its $25 million award for a pilot plant that will produce a diesel substitute by fermenting sweet sorghum and other petro-chemical substitutes. Solazyme, will build a pilot in Riverside, Penn. to produce an algae oil that can be transformed into oil-based fuels. And ZeaChem’s $25 million will go toward its pilot plant in Boardman, Oregon where the company plans to produce fuel-grade ethanol from purpose-grown poplar trees. It will also evaluate other feedstocks.

“Advanced biofuels are critical to building a cleaner, more sustainable transportation system in the U.S.” said U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in a press release. “These projects will help establish a domestic industry that will create jobs here at home and open new markets across rural America.”

Research that could save us after Copenhagen

The research that might save us after Copenhagen..

Catherine Brahic, New Scientist 9 Dec 09:

IT’S crunch time. Two years ago in a huge conference hall in Bali, after a marathon negotiating session that left some delegates in tears, envoys from 192 nations set themselves a deadline of 2009. The task in question? To come up with a way of extending the essence of the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012.

The final stages of this process kicked off in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Monday. Delegates now have until 18 December to deliver.

We know that the summit won’t provide a legally binding “Copenhagen protocol”. That will have to wait until 2010. But it must deliver everything else. Key among the expected elements are promises from rich nations to slash their emissions, and from poor nations to slow their emissions growth. Delegates are also expected to agree to channel cash and low-carbon technologies to poorer nations to help them cope with the effects of climate change. It will go to the wire: don’t expect a conclusion until the early hours of 19 December.

The fate of the planet is not solely in the hands of 192 teams of sleep-deprived politicians, however. Whatever is decided at Copenhagen, environmental awareness has increased, as has funding for low-carbon energy. Pilot projects have sprung up to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground, and alliances have formed to protect ancient forests. A new green revolution has begun, and science has its work cut out over the next decade if it is to deliver a low-carbon society. Here, New Scientist outlines the stepping stones.

Low-hanging fruit

Say “global warming” and most people think of carbon dioxide. But there are many more pollutants warming our climate, some of them both powerful and easily reduced. These include methane, carbon monoxide, and black carbon – the fine soot resulting from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and the burning of biomass. Warming non-CO2 pollutants have so far contributed as much to global warming as CO2.

The good news is that the technology to cut emissions of non-CO2 pollutants already exists. Fitting black-carbon filters on diesel vehicles worldwide would have an immediate impact on climate, for example. So could capturing methane from landfills. Electrification of rural regions in poor countries and the adoption of solar cookers could immediately reduce soot emissions from homes that use firewood and biomass for heating and cooking. That would improve the health of their occupants to boot.

In September, climate policy-makers got a shock. Meeting at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, they asked scientists to forecast how climate change will pan out country by country. “No can do,” came the answer: we are fairly confident about global forecasts, but not local ones.

Will Washington DC be wetter or drier, battered by hurricanes or plagued by drought? “The models have to get a lot better before they can do that,” says mathematician Leonard Smith at the University of Oxford. Short-term regional forecasts could in theory be easier than long-term ones, but Philip Duffy of US-based Climate Central points out that on those timescales, natural variability may cause larger changes than human-made climate change. The politicians are not happy. They want to devise plans for adapting their countries to a changing climate, making it likely that they will push to make local forecasts better.

Just a few years ago, “electric vehicle” meant a golf buggy. Then the Tesla Roadster arrived. The electric sports car does 0-100 kilometres per hour in 4 seconds and has been bought by celebrities such as George Clooney. Finally, electric cars are sexy.

Charging an electric vehicle leads to extra emissions at power plants, but even the Tesla, which is built for speed rather than efficiency, produces less than half of the carbon dioxide per kilometre than the greenest petrol-powered cars. Cheaper, mass-market electric cars are on the way (see picture). The challenge is to get consumers to buy them, which will require a network of stations where drivers can top up their batteries. Enter Better Place, an ambitious start-up headed by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi. Better Place is building a charging network in Denmark and says it will have several thousand electric cars on the road by 2011. If it works there, other countries should follow suit.

The race is on to find climate tipping points before it’s too late. Beyond them lie runaway warming and collapsing ice sheets. Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University, the Netherlands, argues that increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather – which modellers call “flickering” – could suggest a big change is imminent. Confusingly, others argue that unexpected sluggishness or stability in the climate could be something to fear: the calm before the storm. Tim Lenton at the University of East Anglia, UK, is working on an early-warning system for climate tipping points. He says the biggest need is for better climate data, to analyse past climatic lurches and spot signs of sluggishness or flickering.

By one set of numbers, solar energy is the answer to climate change. The sun throws more energy at the Earth’s surface in one hour than we use in an entire year. Even at the 15 to 20 per cent efficiency of current solar cells, the US could meet most of its electricity needs by placing solar panels on every suitable roof in the nation.

That hasn’t happened because electricity from solar cells costs $5000 to $8000 per kilowatt, to coal’s $1800. That’s why just one-thousandth of US electricity came from solar sources last year. “We have such a long way to go,” says Robert Hawsey at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. To get prices down, engineers are building thinner solar cells, which are cheaper, and more flexible versions, which can be incorporated into roofing materials. This sort of progress should make solar cells competitive by 2015, says Hawsey.

It’s a biggie in energy research: capturing the carbon dioxide from power-station emissions and transporting the gas to permanent burial grounds like exhausted salt mines or oil wells. On the face of it, the technology is within reach, and with huge amounts of cheap coal still underground, the world badly needs it. But the logistics of handling billions of tonnes of gas a year are daunting. Pilot projects are under way, but the first commercial carbon capture and storage plants won’t be in business until 2030 at the earliest, says a report by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology entitled The Future of Coal. And US power generators put the R&D bill at about $20 billion. If we could grow biofuels, burn them and capture the emissions, we could generate energy while sucking CO2 from the atmosphere – turning global warming into global cooling.

When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says doubling levels of carbon dioxide will probably raise temperatures by 1.5 °C to 4.5 °C, most of that error bar is a result of uncertainty over clouds. They’re too small and short-lived for easy measurement or modelling. Some warm the planet while others cool it. Climate change may create more clouds or fewer. It’s all very hazy. In July, new work from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research showed global warming is resulting in fewer low clouds over the oceans – boosting warming. Models are being tweaked to take this into account. NCAR reckon it may soon be time to narrow those errors bars, closing in on 4.5 °C.

Biofuels have gone from green hero to zero in five years. Many trash rainforests, take land and water that would otherwise be used for growing food, or have carbon footprints as big as the fuels they replace. But it’s too soon to write them off. The next five years could be make-or-break for developing less antisocial, “second generation” biofuels. Genetically engineered enzymes or chemical catalysts may soon be able to cheaply break down the cellulose in woody agricultural waste into sugars fit for fermentation. Another big breakthrough could be in processing algae grown in tanks or the ocean to turn it into ethanol or butanol.

There will inevitably be physical constraints on how much biofuel can be manufactured, which raises the question of how to best utilise it. If power stations increasingly run on renewable or nuclear fuel, and if future cars are plug-ins charged from the grid, then maybe biofuels should be saved for shipping and applications where charging options are limited.

Call it the planet’s plan B or call it plain crazy, “geoengineering” is here to stay. Few serious scientists believe that “hacking” the climate to artificially cool it is a must, but many think it should investigated seriously. There are growing signs that governments – and the military – are paying attention.

It’s unclear what a plan B would look like. For that, we need to understand the side effects of different schemes. Pumping a sulphur sunshade into the atmosphere, for instance, could disrupt large weather systems. Much of this research can be done with models, but we may also need to carry out “micro-hacks” – small-scale field experiments. The trickiest challenge may be the slippery slope between small-scale experiments and large ones that have a detectable effect on weather or climate, says Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California. To avoid groups carrying out their own large-scale experiments unilaterally, it is vital that open discussions on regulation are held soon.