Saturday, February 2, 2008
Algae and Energy
As mentioned in the National Geographic article "Growing Fuel: The Wrong Way, The Right Way," Algae as a source of energy is becoming a well researched topic. The algae being researched by one Berkley, California, company, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, or more commonly pond scum, is a microscopic green algae. The algae was discovered more than 60 years ago, and has peaked interest because of its ability to split water into hydrogen and oxygen under controlled condiditons. Pond Scum was recently catipulted back into the spotlight after a scientific breakthrough in controlling the hydrogen output. University of California - Berkley professor Tasios Melis and various researchers from the National Renewable Energy Lab are credited with the discovery. Melis in his findings discovered that algae must be supplied Sulfur, which is necessary for plants to make proteins, but he was still able to repeatedly switch hydrogen production on and off by simply changing the algaes environment. Melis and his team have only reached 10% of the algaes' theoratical yield capacity. In order for algaes energy to be cost competitive he and his team must reach a 50 percent production yield. Because so many scientist buy into the idea of Hydrogen as the next great fuel source Melis and similar research teams will be funded for at least the next 20-50 years. Melis' team has already chosen the Southwest US as the site to build production plants based on the amount of sunlight. Too Early, Way Too Early, or Already Too Late? You Decide.