Like a breath mint for a smokestack, algae can harness carbon dioxide from pools of water before the pollutants of power plants and factories are coughed into the atmosphere. And algae are doubly useful for greening our planet: The slimy green stuff that we scrape off our fish tanks is a hot candidate for a new biofuel, ISRAEL21c reports.
The Israeli-based company Seambiotic partnered two years ago with a local power plant to prove their concept. And while we are hearing mixed signals on the successes of the US-based algal company GreenFuel, the Israeli company believes it is leagues ahead of its competitor in terms of R&D.; One of the reasons, the company explains, is modest use of research dollars and a creative approach. The company has built a prototype algae farm consisting of eight shallow algae pools, filled with the same seawater used to cool the coal-burning power plant. A small percentage of gases are siphoned off from the power plant flue and are channeled directly into the algae ponds, where the algae go to work fixing carbon dioxide into green plant matter.
When the algae farm started operating nannochloropsis, a common algae, was culled from the sea and used in the ponds. But within months, the team noticed an unusual variety of algae taking over: Skeletonema – which is very useful for producing biofuel.
The company has stirred up interest around the world, specifically in Brazil, which has become one of the champions of R&D; in the area of alternative and renewable fuels. "A Brazilian professor wrote to us recently, 'if that algae of yours has the better features as you say it does, we will close our sugar cane operations and switch to algae,'" said Noam Menczel, Seambiotic's director of investor relations. TreeHugger related GreenFuel & Algatech and GreenFuel ::ISRAEL21c