The University of Cincinnati is partnering with a Marysville, Ohio, firm – Algaeventure Systems, Inc., a Univenture, Inc., company – to covert algae into biodiesel.
That’s because algae could not only fuel all of Ohio’s transportation needs, but an algae industry here could conceivably create 80,000 direct jobs in the state. And in some parts of Ohio, algae-derived diesel is already being used to power trucks.
Among the UC researchers studying the use of algae as a fuel source are Tim Keener, professor and associate dean of engineering, and Joo-Yoop Lee, assistant professor of chemical and materials engineering.
For instance, Lee is testing the best conditions for producing algae. What amount of light is best, at what intensity and at what duration? You may not know it, but algae are like people. Algae need to rest or “sleep” just like we need to. So, round-the-clock, 24-hours a day of light actually isn’t the optimum environment for growing algae.
Another question UC is seeking to answer here: What level of nutrients is best for growing algae? (The nutrients for algae come from waste water, like all the water that flows out of your house from the kitchen or the bathroom.)
In Lee’s UC lab and others like it on campus, municipal waste water is used to feed algae and that waste water actually leaves here cleaner than when it came. So, benefits to the environment are an advantageous byproduct to UC’s drive to grow algae for biodiesel use.
The work you see here is just one small experiment. Others on campus are testing the best conditions for growing algae in large, industrial-sized, continuous flow vats. And soon, UC will be growing and testing algae in two special rooms where factors like humidity and temperature will be precisely controlled.
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