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Algae Fuel Experiment Goes to Space

May 27th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Fuel-Research

Algae fuel experiment of two students is chosen to be carried out aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. Kyle Chapo and Isaac Wells, two students from the Nebraska-based Lincoln Zoo School, a science focus program, will carry out experiments on algae oil production, simultaneously astronauts will be doing the same aboard Atlantis. The experiment was chosen out of four proposals from Lincoln schools and will join about 20 others from across the nation aboard the shuttle. It’s part of a private venture by the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program.

The winning research question was, “Does the stress response of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii growing in microgravity differ from the stress response of C. reinhardtii grown in normal gravity when it is stressed with 100mm of saline?” To be simple, “Will fresh-water algae produce more or less oil when subjected to saltwater in space?” The students have no idea how the algae will repond to the stress but they are confident that they could see some sort of difference.

Chapo feels that algae are the best source of bio-oil and if microgravity affects them, they may be able to find better ways of producing more oil. The experiment itself is extremely tiny. Nanopacks, a private company, bought space on the shuttle to conduct the experiments in a 6-by-1-by-1-inch clear plastic block with small, drilled holes. Fluids will occupy the 250-microliter holes, which are about the size of a toothpick. Astronauts will mix the two fluids during flight, and the samples will be sent back to students for comparison.

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