January 10, 2006


Algae - like a breath mint for smokestacks (Mark Clayton, 1/11/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Bolted onto the exhaust stacks of a brick-and-glass 20-megawatt power plant behind MIT's campus are rows of fat, clear tubes, each with green algae soup simmering inside. Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions, courtesy of the power plant's exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays of a New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40 percent less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and another bonus: 86 percent less nitrous oxide.

After the CO2 is soaked up like a sponge, the algae is harvested daily. From that harvest, a combustible vegetable oil is squeezed out: biodiesel for automobiles. Berzin hands a visitor two vials - one with algal biodiesel, a clear, slightly yellowish liquid, the other with the dried green flakes that remained. Even that dried remnant can be further reprocessed to create ethanol, also used for transportation.

...we'll get even richer finding ways to meet them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 10, 2006 6:48 PM

American ingenuity at work.

Posted by: erp at January 10, 2006 7:01 PM

How long until the Animal Rights people argue that a dog is a cell is a cow is a boy is an algae cell.

We are "fattening" the cells to "harvest" them.

"Cellular Rights Movement" - it's only a motion away

Posted by: Bruno at January 11, 2006 2:32 AM

The Boston Museum of Science has had an excellent display of the technology actually working, in miniature, for months now. It's a simple process on the front end; processing of the algae in quantity may be a greater practicle challenge. Regardless, it may open the door for the cleaner use of coal for power.

Posted by: Genecis at January 11, 2006 8:02 AM

The best part is that they can sell the algae to hippies for use as meat substitutes

Posted by: Bryan at January 11, 2006 8:11 AM

Um, not to be too cynical here, but if you burn that biodiesel, aren't you putting back into the atmosphere the C02 you so cleverly removed from the smokestack exhaust?

(Though I suppose if it's displacing oil this amounts to the same thing...)

Posted by: Mike Earl at January 11, 2006 11:11 AM

Bryan. Ugh.

Posted by: erp at January 11, 2006 11:12 AM

Mr. Earl;

Yes you are, but you've performed significantly more work for same CO2 released in to the atmostphere. That's effectively the same as raising the miles per gallon on cars in terms of CO2 emissions.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 11, 2006 11:21 AM

Saw this on Alan Alda's show on PBS. Pretty cool, but then there are always articles like this. It seems these innovations are chiefly capable of producing optimistic articles, and then you don't hear about 99% of them ever again. I'm always for this stuff, but it seems the only thing that has really taken off recently is hybrid vehicles.

Posted by: RC at January 11, 2006 4:53 PM