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University of Kentucky works on Algae CO2 Sequetration

January 8th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-CO2-Capture, Algae-Fuel-Research

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University of Kentucky researchers are among a growing number around the world looking at algae as a potential answer to our energy puzzle.While most of the research into these oily aquatic plants focuses on how to turn them into liquid fuels, UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research is also looking at using algae to scrub carbon dioxide and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants.The idea is to use the way algae, like other plants, naturally soaks up carbon dioxide. The algae, which grows quickly, could then be converted into liquid fuel and other products.

“This would not only allow us to continue to use coal in an environmentally acceptable way, but would also allow us to reduce dependence on petroleum,” said Rodney Andrews, director of the UK Center for Applied Energy Research and an associate professor of chemical engineering.

Put another way, the $3.5 million research project, with money from industry and the state’s environmental cabinet, could help keep Kentucky in the coal business.

In addition to Andrews, the UK research is being led by Mark Crocker, associate director of the Center for Applied Energy Research; Czarena Crofcheck and Mike Montross, both associate professors of biosystems and agricultural engineering.

They’re conducting their research in a climate-controlled laboratory where algae grows in tubular tanks fueled by grow lights. The tank water turns greener as the algae colonies expand. There are tens of thousands of algae species.”We’re looking for some that can tolerate those flue gases, and continue to grow robustly,” Crofcheck said.

But, so far, the process is impractical. Even under the best circumstances, Andrews said, it would take a lake of about 8 square miles to produce enough algae to remove carbon dioxide from a midsized — 500 megawatt — power plant.Yet despite the challenges, something needs to be done.

“Industry and everybody else understands we have to solve what we are going to do with carbon dioxide in a state that’s 92 percent coal-fired,” he said.

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