Tuesday, February 28, 2006

sweet algae

Mutant Algae Is Hydrogen Factory
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have engineered a strain of pond scum that could, with further refinements, produce vast amounts of hydrogen through photosynthesis. ... "When we discovered the sulfur switch, we increased hydrogen production by a factor of 100,000," says Seibert. "But to make it a commercial technology, we still had to increase the efficiency of the process by another factor of 100." Melis’ truncated antennae mutants are a big step in that direction. Now Seibert and others (including James Lee at Oak Ridge National Laboratories and J. Craig Venter at the Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland) are trying to adjust the hydrogen-producing pathway so that it can produce hydrogen 100 percent of the time. ... (If) scientists can find solutions for those two problems will have a lot to do with realizing the vision of a hydrogen-powered economy based on algae farms in desert areas.

Plenty has been said regarding vats of algae. Seems algae will save the future. When did endless vats of outgassing algae replace healthy forests? Who cares, as long as we can press the algae into candy bars for the slaves who glue our shoes together on the Mariana islands.

The catch is, it doesn't work. Furious progress has been made, putting humankind on the cusp of producing vast amounts of hydrogen, but meanwhile, we are producing miniscule and minute amounts.

Somebody send me a postcard when we have positive EROEI. And send me another when we can fill an oil tanker (energy equivalent to oil, not literally) full of algae-produced hydrogen in a month or less.

That would be cool. I'm not holding my breath.


At 1:01 AM, February 28, 2006, Blogger Big Gav said...

Cynic :-)

At 1:13 AM, February 28, 2006, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Nah. "Free" Hydrogen would be about as close to clean, free energy as we could get, outside of wind.

If massive amounts of hydrogen could be produced, massive amounts of clean energy could be produced.

I'm not cynical about THAT...

I am just mordantly amused when half baked, half implemented, half thought out ideas are squealed from the mountains by "idea" people as being evidence for consumption as usual.

Right now, it is marketing.

At 8:45 PM, March 01, 2006, Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

The hydrogen process can be done in 2 steps if this doesn't work.  Make carbohydrate from CO2 and water, and instead of fermenting to ethanol you reform to H2 and CO2 (and recycle the CO2).

I'm not normally a big hydrogen fan, but if a farmer had a way to fix all the nitrogen he needed and could also export most of the carbon from his crop wastes as some kind of fuel, it would both eliminate the problem of nitrogen supply and provide another income stream.

At 5:58 AM, March 05, 2006, Anonymous eric blair said...

As far as I know, Algae still needs sunlight and some form of food to grow.

Food like, oh, say, the material collected in a sewage system. (would not need to de-water it?)

Now, the chatter is "Lets grow Algae in the desert" Ok, lets. Now, how many sources of food for the algae are in the desert? How much water is in the desert? And, where is the energy gonna come from to build the containment ponds/vessels in the desert, not to mention the moving of water and food TO the desert and the Hydrogen away FROM the desert? (Just moving the water and waste *IN* a city requires motors so damn big that the electrict company needs to be notified when the motor will cycle on/off so they can load balance the demand change) Hydrogen-as-energy-source ignore the leakage of H2 away from containment. At least the algae-oil people have a stable (potentional) product that can be stored for years.

Most sources of food for algae have land already in use next to the algae food collection system. (Most places are dumping billions of watts into processing that algae food into a mostly clean output...de-energizing the waste stream, as it were.) And many places don't have good algae-growing prospects from Nov to April.

export most of the carbon from his crop wastes as some kind of fuel

Yea, strip mine that carbon from the soil! Woot! Look out behind ya... that 300 years of mineable Phosporous? how about 130 years instead.
If solar-collectors (farmers) want an energy income stream - PV and Wind will do it with MUCH LESS personal effort on the farmers part.

{tounge in cheek}
Now if you excuse me, I have a bottle to urineate in, and bones to grind to use in wheat growing->bread-making.
{/tounge in cheek}

At 12:58 AM, June 04, 2006, Blogger Ecacofonix said...

Commercially usable hydrogen from algae, while it appears tantalisingly possible, is in my opinion quite some time away...the more important question of storing the hydrogen in our fuel tanks has not yet been solved anyway...but it is always good to read that some progress has been made

What is perhaps more feasible in the medium term is biodiesel from algae...some inputs from the site Oilgae - Biodiesel from Algae



Post a Comment

<< Home