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Development of an Algae-based System for CO2 Mitigation
C.L. Crofcheck, M.D. Montross
Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen since the industrial revolution due to the increase in fossil fuel combustion. These elevated levels of CO2 have been cited as a significant cause of climate change. Hence, there is a well motivated need to find ways of curbing CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, such that even when burning fossil fuels such as coal, the process is closer to being carbon neutral.
One avenue for controlling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere involves CO2 capture and long term storage underground. Another avenue involves using plant based organisms to utilize CO2 by conversion to biomass. Microalgae, microscopic photosynthetic organisms that grow in salt or fresh water, are fast growing autotrophic plants that require CO2 as a nutrient. Hence, it may be possible to use waste CO2 to grow algae, before the CO2 is released to the atmosphere.
In addition, there is a possibility that the resulting algae can be further processed into valuable co-products, such as biofuels or animal feeds. Such a CO2 mitigation strategy is an attractive option for Kentucky, considering the number of coal fire plants in the Commonwealth.
2009 Project Description
In the last three months, we have set up several experimental set-ups and started running preliminary experiments. We have the capabilities to run experiments in 300 ml flasks or 14 L photobioreactors. We are currently testing two diffrent algae strains, Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella sorokiniana.
In the last three months, we have been setting up the experiments and running preliminary tests. Based on these tests, we have determined what media formula to use for subsequent experiment, which uses urea as the nitrogen source and commercially available fertilizer as the micronutrients source.