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 algae covered buildings.

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Algae bioplastics at affordable prices by 2010

Frederic Scheer, head of the plastics manufacturer Cereplast..

Frederic Scheer is biding his time, convinced that by 2013 the price of oil will be so high that his bio-plastics, made from vegetables and plants, will be highly marketable.

Scheer, 55, is the owner of Cereplast, a company that designs and makes sustainable plastics from starches found in tapioca, corn, wheat and potatoes.

He has believed for the past 20 years that the price of oil will eventually make petroleum-based plastics obsolete and clear the way for his alternative. “The tipping point for us is 95 dollars a barrel,” he said. At that price “our product becomes cheaper” than traditional plastic. “The day where we hit 95 dollars a barrel I think all of a sudden you’re going to see bio-plastics basically explode,” he said.

According to Scheer, once oil prices are consistently that high, which he expects to be the case around 2013, major chemical companies like Dupont and BASF will have no choice but to join him in bio-plastics. By 2020, he expects the US market for the plastics to be worth 10 billion dollars, up from its current value of about a billion dollars.

The world market for traditional oil-based plastics is worth 2,500 billion dollars. Cereplast, which has 25 employees in California and in Indiana, has accumulated a series of patents for the technology it uses to create the bio-plastics.

With annual sales of five million dollars, Cereplast manufactures resins that biodegrade naturally within three months for use in products including cups, plastic lids and packaging. They also produce “hybrid” resins of polypropylene that are stronger and more durable, for use in cars or children’s toys.

“In using our resin, we basically inject up to 50 percent agricultural renewable resources… giving them a better carbon footprint,” said Scheer. “Each time you create one kilo of traditional polypropylene, you create 3.15 kilos of carbon dioxide.

When we create one kilo of bio-propylene, we create 1.40 kilos of carbon dioxide, so clearly you have a substantial saving with respect to greenhouse gases, creating a much better carbon footprint for the product,” he said.

Creating plastics that are biodegradable is key, Scheer says, because just 3.5 percent of polypropylene plastic in the United States gets recycled. Around 70 percent of all plastic waste “ends up in landfills and stays there a very long time,” he said.

Americans go through 110 billion plastic or plastic-covered cups each year, using and discarding what the Food Packaging Institute describes as “astronomical numbers” of disposable containers. “It takes between 70 to 100 million years to make fossil fuel and you are going to use your cup at Starbucks for 45 minutes max,” said Scheer.

But using potatoes and corn to produce billions of tonnes of bio-plastics might not be the most sustainable business plan either, as spikes in food prices in 2008 illustrated. So Scheer is also looking at algae. “Algae presents the same kind of physical and thermal property that we find in starches,” he said. “We can grow algae extremely fast, in very large quantities, at a very low price.” Cereplast hopes to offer a plastic made with algae for commercial sale by the end of 2010 and is projecting its annual sales will have doubled by then.

The success is bittersweet for Scheer, who was born in Paris but has become known as the one of the “grandfathers” of the bio-plastics industry in the United States, rather than his home country. “The United States are a land of opportunity for the entrepreneur,” he said. “I regret that France didn’t give me that kind of opportunity.”

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Algae grows best in PBR

The two primary methods currently available for growing and harvesting algae are open pond systems and closed system photobioreactors (PBR). PBR’s create an enclosed growing environment for algae cultivation where light, air, and nutrients are supplied at regulated levels to ensure optimized growth. The problems versus benefits between the two systems are presented in bullet points in clear and detailed manner.

The site clearly shows that photobioreactor scores over traditional open pond systems. An unbiased presentation of facts helps in making a choice.

PBR efficiencies still require fine tuning. Government funding or subsidies would be a necessity especially for start up and small bio fuels companies. More research is required to isolate the most cost effective extraction processes.

Despite these limitations, bio algae production from PBR’s represents one of the United States’ greatest opportunities for transition away from strictly fossil fuels, while providing a high protein food source for humans and as a feed stock for animal, poultry, and fish live stocks. It can also assist in the reduction of greenhouse gases by sequestering CO2. As production levels increase PBR’s will be able to use their own oil output to run themselves removing the argument that it still requires fossil fuels to bio fuel production.

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WSU Researcher helping turn Algae to Fuel

PULLMAN, Wash.—There are a lot of things standing in the way of Shulin Chen’s quest to make energy from algae, the simple, light-loving organisms we usually associate with pond scum, seaweed and deck slime.

But in a world of rising greenhouse gases and dwindling energy options, he’s forging ahead.

“We don’t have other choices,” said Chen, a professor of biological systems engineering. “We have to do it. We make progress one step at a time but I believe eventually we’re going to have a biofuel industry using algae. We have to. There’s little other option.”

His effort took a significant step towards reality this week with word of a $2 million federal appropriation to develop energy-rich algae, the technology to grow them all year, and a way to convert them into fuel and other products. The funding was secured with the help of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., through the 2010 Senate Energy and Water Development appropriations bill and will go to the Washington State Algae Alliance, comprised of WSU, Targeted Growth Inc. of Seattle and Inventure Chemical of Gig Harbor.

As a potential fuel source, microalgae are hard to beat. They grow fast, doubling their mass several times a day. They take up a fraction of the space required to grow other biofuels. And loaded with fat, they are the fried-cheese of the biofuel world.

“The idea of fuel from algae is accepted,” said Chen. “The challenge is to make it work.”

For now, it’s too expensive to produce algae-based fuel—the equivalent of $10- to $30-a-gallon gas.

The solar energy they use is free, but they also require water and fertilizer. An algae production system also needs energy to pump water, carbon-dioxide and nutrients while removing wastes. Those processes right now use a lot more energy than algae produces, said Chen.

Still, he says, there’s no choice but to make algae work.

“With electricity, we have alternative sources,” Chen said. “We can do hydropower. We can do solar energy. We can do wind energy. But liquid transportation fuel is something where we don’t have other options. We have to get that from biomass, either from crop residues or algae. Crop residues are a good source but limited. Algae has the highest potential.”

Demand for algae-based fuel is likely to be driven first by the need to capture carbon dioxide, the most abundant global-warming gas, from producers like coal plants. Development could also be supported by algae byproducts—proteins and polysaccharides that can be used in feed or health-oriented foods and supplements called “nutraceuticals.” These can help drive production costs down until other energy costs rise to make large-scale fuel production worthwhile.

Chen, who has patents pending on several algae culture, harvesting and nutrient-recycling systems, plans to use the federal money to improve ways to produce and process algae. He says WSU is currently one of the major players among universities in this relatively new field.

“The money we’re receiving will put us one step up,” he said, “and make us a lot more competitive to become a leader in this area.”

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OriginOil Reveals Algae Production Model

The National Algae Association’s (NAA) quarterly conference applauded OriginOil’s presentation of a first-ever comprehensive algae production model, developed with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) of the Department of Energy under its collaborative research agreement with OriginOil.

At the end of the presentation, CEO Eckelberry outlined plans to share this first-ever interactive model for algae production through a process of publishing various calculators on the company’s website and also making the detailed model available to researchers.

Should further stimulate interest in algae to oil prroduction.

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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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Algae may fix Logan’s sewage mess

“It’s like killing two birds with one stone,” said Paul Israelsen, a research associate professor in USU’s electrical and computer engineering department. The algae cultivated in the lagoons is to be converted to methane and used as fuel for electrical generation and the phosphorus would be extracted to sell to fertilizer manufacturers and other industries.

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