It may sound odd, but algae is exciting stuff!

It can be used as a scrubber because algae are photosynthetic organisms that consume Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and produce Oxygen (O2).

Algae can be used to produce biohydrogen. Hydrogen is the only truly clean-burning fuel around. The problem with using hydrogen as a fuel is that producing it generates a great deal of pollution, even if burning it produces none. Producing biohydrogen from algae, on the other hand, is essentially environmentally benign.

And algae can be used to produce biodiesel. Historically, the expense of this process has obviated its value, but as petroleum becomes more scarce, expensive, and destructive to collect and refine, the cost-benefit ratio is changing.

And more.

In this article, we learn about what researchers at the University of Texas are doing with algae.

U.T. Making a Big Bet on the Future of Algae

By Lara Lapin, The Texas Tribune

Just off a dirt road in northwest Austin stand hundreds of 12-foot-tall tubes filled with green liquid. Nearly 15,000 gallons of algae grow inside the tubes, which are housed in a massive structure called a shadehouse. Lab workers have to climb ladders to peek inside and tend to the tiny organisms.

For decades, scientists have been trying to find ways to mass-produce algae as a viable source of fuel for vehicles. High costs and environmental factors have created insurmountable roadblocks. Now, researchers hope, a new facility at the University of Texas will help them move closer to that goal.

“You need three things to grow algae: carbon dioxide, dirty water and sunshine,” said Michael E. Webber, an assistant professor in the U.T. department of mechanical engineering. “Texas has abundant supplies of all three.”

The university opened the shadehouse at the J. J. Pickle Research Campus three weeks ago with the objective of mass-producing algae for use as biofuel and other byproducts. AlgEternal Technologies, a company based in Austin, whose chief executive is Representative Rob Eissler, Republican of The Woodlands, collaborated with the UTEX Culture Collection of Algae — one of the largest such collections in the world — to develop the technology to grow the organisms for the project.

Another Texas company, OpenAlgae, works with the Center for Electromechanics at U.T. to extract oil from the organisms in a cost-effective manner.

Algae can be used to make products other than biofuel, including animal feed, food supplements and pharmaceuticals, said Jerry J. Brand, the Jack S. Josey professor in energy studies and the director of the UTEX Culture Collection of Algae.

Michael Jochum, AlgEternal’s chief scientist, said one potential key to successfully growing large quantities of algae for commercial use was the project’s Vertical Growth Module — those giant tubes. The algae grow in a closed system that uses the sun as its main source of energy and reduces production costs and the chances of predators or diseases attacking the algae. Growing the cultures vertically also means scientists can produce a lot of algae in a relatively small area.

“Algae has typically been grown horizontally in open ponds, where limiting factors like poor sunlight and contamination from outside organisms have prevented large-scale algae production,” Mr. Jochum said.

The UTEX Culture Collection of Algae works with AlgEternal to decide which kinds of culture should be grown and under what conditions, Mr. Brand said.

“They have the potential to play a role in reducing greenhouse gases and decreasing our dependence on crude oil,” he said. “Algae can grow much faster than plants. They don’t require as much water, and they can grow in places that plants can’t, like deserts.”

That is especially important for Texas because of the severe drought gripping the state.

Beyond the central problem of figuring out how to grow large amounts of algae economically, Mr. Brand said, is the complexity of working with vast amounts of the organisms. “As you scale up,” he said, “more unexpected problems arise.”

llapin@texastribune.org

Expanded coverage of Texas is produced by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit news organization. To join the conversation about this article, go to texastribune.org.

Original post on The New York Times

43 Responses to “The Value of Algae”

  1. Honestly speaking, Kamal Hassan have been so successful as Rajnikanth in Robot. Kamal have pulled out the style that Rajini blown on to Chitti! He is the real super star, look at him, not scared to talk the truth, no ego! Amazing human being.

  2. widmann kooyi says:

    No, its not off enough to be of consequence. Timing is actually very good considering it is not fitted with adjustment. Rpm’s are low and that is what you are hearing. Keep in mind, this is research, not a final product. Perfection comes after we prove it works.

  3. Nature Made Coq10 200 Mg 30 Ct: Nature Made Coq10 200 Mg is a vitamin-like compound involved in energy productio…

  4. brenkarrea says:

    Most of the primary dealers who do business directly with the Fed and underwrite Treasury auctions expect additional monetary policy stimulus at some point in the coming months. The nature and timing of a stimulus are less but the big banks expect the Fed will again engage in bond buying to increase the size of its balance sheet. Post your comment!

  5. crett reherson says:

    Morgen od iwann die Woche wenn ich Zeit habe mache ich meine haare entweder hellbraun oder dunkelblond (Mission: Back to Nature ;)) –

  6. yeah man. I just lost my girlfriend too. I hate coldplay…but I love her. And she loves this song. So here I am giving it a chance. For her. done now, but if I so ignorant, maybe I loved her the way she deserved. Sorry to steal your thunder, just wanted to let you know, I agree. And my goes out to you man. Best of luck. Summer…if you read this, which you cuz you have this on your itunes, I love you. And I would/will do anything and everything for you

  7. Super Polar Plus II Pool Winter Covers – 16 x 32 Oval: Superior strength, and Heat Shield algae fighting technol…

  8. This is true. As prices climb, the need for R&D in these fields will climb. Right now it’s nukes, wave power a distant second as far as green goes. Natural gas and coal still top the list after petrol. My guess is that some “new and/or improved” energy source will pop it’s head out if it has been hidden. Look at it economically, trillions of dollars would have been lost by oil, auto, gas, etc complex if it would have been disclosed earlier.

  9. also have Luke Staengl as a presenter. Luke is an internationally recognized authority on alternative energy and has business in both Roanoke and India. At the moment, in Saudi Arabia working on a project there. He lives in Floyd and active with Sustain Floyd in development small scale alternative energy systems for the local area.]]>

  10. oubaumgard says:

    yeah, I do. I believe science, not skeptical about it. People only change when they lose money, hence why a tax is needed.

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  12. TORONTO – The Ontario government has been able to stick by its green energy plans amid a looming recession by ma…

  13. It could not be transparent paper because then how would he pour out all the liquid at the end … it is the shape of the bottle opening… when air is allowed to enter into the bottle while the liquid is being poured (like at the end of the video) then the liquid comes out, but when the bottle is upside down no liquid can come out because of the shape of the exit (which holds the water in)

  14. As energy demand grows, even alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and nuclear fusion could begin to affect the climate. Anil Ananthaswamy

  15. Should alternative energy restrictions be dropped?: They can’t do what I feel they should be able to do right no…

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  17. Im such a science freak!! Its 1 in the morning and not only am i watching science videos…im singing along!

  18. ciol solton says:

    Simply because no one has a clue what your next move is and its human nature for people to fear or hate what they cant understand or conquer

  19. sitchetzel says:

    What is wrong with relativity? Simple, it totally ignores the of a how a clock works when it states time changes rate.

  20. Being a vegan. It’s really not rocket science. I dn overstand why people dn overstand what it means . The system is failing/has failed ppl

  21. klin rehbonna says:

    Some of us try to question our existance / Others, look around at this world & try to put all the beauty of nature into words.

  22. molleguias says:

    Now when your grandmother tells you that tomatoes tasted better when she was a girl, science will back her up

  23. Science in fuel more pro teams on Tour than any other nutrition brand. For a chance to win one of…

  24. @JimNorton NY Post and Daily News are to journalism what algae is to marine biology.
    NY Post and Daily News are to journalism what algae is to marine biology.

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    I am imagining trio backing up Michael Jackson at a small lounge in Vegas doing Human Nature. A man is entitled to his dreams.

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  28. selbaugh verick says:

    Idiots – you cannot engineer the but you can kill it with your misplaced “good” intentions based on gee-whiz 11-year old concepts of science

  29. according to my science teacher they would collect it in jars and put it on vegetables!!! We were really disturbed :/

  30. I was a CO2 molecule a very long time ago, but I was forced, like you, into photosynthesis, by algae, which are PROTISTS!

  31. cumanion weibess says:

    I should of stayed in engineering. Alternative energy with the building of windmills is about to blow up. Money is in that too.

  32. roh sciaki says:

    But w.e I got cooler museums in NY to go to as soon as I meet someone that likes and science.

  33. Jonathan Trent of NASA brings it home on renewable energy based on algae that does not compete w/ feeding people! starvation

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  35. the bioenergy project used algae on non-arable land & can produce aviation fuel, I just wonder do oil co.s want this?

  36. Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com – Friday, February 01, 2013
    WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he is leaving the Obama administration, ending a tenure marked by active development of alternative energy that won plaudits from environmentalists and drew attacks from conservatives, especially after the bankruptcy of the federally-backed solar panel maker, Solyndra.All Related

  37. santi scarpoor says:

    *clearing throat* Ron Paul, still a piece of crap. Sandra Fluke, still a slut. still pathetic. Algae, still not energy. That is all. –

  38. After everyone spent two days cooped up in the house with their families, tomorrow will be Fuse Day in the office.

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  41. Five and a half minutes on the science of Li-ion batteries about to be loaded to the Risk Bites YouTube channel (for Tuesday) – exhausted!

  42. sweed pah says:

    “WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Friday he is convinced he became ill after swimming in the algae in Grand Lake earlier this week. “There is no question,” the Oklahoma Republican said, linking what he thought was a routine dive into the lake last Monday morning to a severe upper respiratory illness. “That night, Monday night, I was just deathly sick.” Inhofe and his wife, Kay, have had a home on the lake for decades, and he has never seen that kind of algae in the water previously. “I didn’t think anything about it,” he said, recalling that he had encouraged his 13-year-old granddaughter to join him in the water but she declined. “She didn’t want to get in that green stuff.””

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    ProGreens with advanced Probiotic Formula is a gluten free whole food concentrate formulated with young green grasses, algae, probiotics, fiber, herbal extracts, ginsengs, super foods, and nutrients to a healthy diet as it provides additional antioxidant, health, and energy enhancing ProGreens uses only the freshest, nutrient rich, scientifically processed while foods to create the best tasting nutritious green drink available. Organic, gluten free grasses are the foundation of the ProGreens formula, which includes standardized herbal extracts, blue green and sea algae, 8 straings of dairy free probiotics, natural fibers, concentrated superfoods, adaptogenic and herbs. Don’t miss your daily greens!

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