Cleaning up CO2
Reported April 2007
ATHENS, Ohio (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Global warming's effects can be seen worldwide, and many experts believe it's only going to get worse! In fact, America is by far the largest contributor to global warming than any other country -- releasing a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide -- the primary cause of global warming. But now engineers have found a natural way to eliminate one of the worst contributors to our environment's decay.
What's coming from power plants, traffic jams and industrial smog is causing our ozone to disappear, ice caps to melt, and temperatures to rise. The latest international report says carbon dioxide responsible for 60 percent of the greenhouse gases.
Now engineers say a simple, sustainable and natural solution may come from algae.
"If this sort of technology can be developed, it can be deployed anywhere there's sunlight," David Bayless, Ph.D., a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio University in Athens, tells Ivanhoe.
Dr. Bayless, with a team at Ohio University, created a photo bioreactor that uses photosynthesis to grow algae just like a plant would take carbon dioxide up and, through the energy of the sun, convert that into oxygen.
"That passes the carbon dioxide over these membranes," Ben Stuart, an Ohio University environmental engineer, tells Ivanhoe. "These membranes are fabric just like your shirt. It's a woven material, and as the carbon dioxide pass by them, that carbon dioxide dissolves into the water."
That carbon dioxide is broken down by the algae. Nitrogen and clean oxygen are released back into the atmosphere. But to capture the CO2 created from a power plant, algae would have to fill a building the size of Wal-Mart.
"The size of these things would be enormous, about an acre worth of land space. And so the flu gases would run through this huge building and the algae would be growing on the suspended vertical surfaces." Stuart says.
But what makes it cost effective? The algae can be harvested and made into biodiesel fuel and feed for animals.
Dr. Bayless says, "You are talking about definitely home-grown fuel, a win-win thing. You know, you are taking a potentially very negative thing in carbon emissions and turning it into a fuel that we can use domestically." He says a full-scale reactor with 1.25 million square meters of algae screens could be up and running by 2010.
There are already some test facilities working right now -- and just in time! In the past 50 years, the U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions has almost doubled. Texas ranks first in the nation for the highest emissions ... And just remember, once carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, it stays there for about 100 years.
The American Geophysical Union, American Society for Microbiology, and the Optical Society of America contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Director of Research Communications
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
American Society for Microbiology
Washington, DC 20036-2904
Optical Society of America
Washington, DC 20036-1023
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