brkt: the technique of algae tubing

January 19, 2009

“A single acre of algae ponds can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel — incomparison, an acre of soybeans produces up to 50 gallons of biodiesel per acre, an acre of jatropha produces up to 200 gallons per acre, coconuts produce just under 300 gallons per acre, and palm oil — currently the best non-algal source — produces up to 650 gallons of biodiesel per acre. That is to say, algae is 25 times better a source for biodiesel than palm oil, and 300 times better than soy.

Berzin calculates that just one 1,000 megawatt power plant using his system could produce more than 40 million gallons of biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol a year. That would require a 2,000-acre “farm” of algae-filled tubes near the power plant. There are nearly 1,000 power plants nationwide with enough space nearby for a few hundred to a few thousand acres to grow algae and make a good profit, he says.”

The science is simple: Algae need water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow. The oil they produce can then be harvested and converted into biodiesel; the algae’s carbohydrate content can be fermented into ethanol. Both are much cleaner-burning fuels than petroleum-based diesel or gas.

The reality is more complex. Trying to grow concentrations of the finicky organism is a bit like trying to balance the water in a fish tank. It’s also expensive. The water needs to be just the right temperature for algae to proliferate, and even then open ponds can become choked with invasive species. Atmospheric levels of CO2 also aren’t high enough to spur exponential growth.

Solix addresses these problems by containing the algae in closed “photobioreactors”—triangular chambers made from sheets of polyethylene plastic (similar to a painter’s dropcloth)—and bubbling supplemental carbon dioxide through the system.”

potential process: CO2 from polluted air + sunlight +algae = biodiesel

it is probable that we would not get enough CO2 from the air alone, and would need supplementary sources of CO2.

One solution to this might be to tap into CO2 emissions from the plant which breaks down and processes the algae.  This plant would also be responsible for pumping in the algae for collection (a process which could also be handled in a more manual fashion, or using the collection trucks/tankers)

mos project (flip-a-strip): — contains comparison chart for various forms of biodiesel


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