MIT Algae Photobioreactor

MIT Algae Photobioreactor

An algae photobioreactor on the roof of MIT university. The clear polycarbonate tubes are approx 3 meters high, and 10-20 centimeters in diameter. It removes…
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17 Replies to “MIT Algae Photobioreactor”

  1. Off topic from from algae, but speaking of space station and solar energy, I wonder if Solar UV rays would work nicely to break down metabolic waste.

  2. Hardly. As SockPupperCommentary was convinced that algae farm for energy would be better, I am fairly sure that they will cost more. Your right about the light being intense. Shading / shielding with an outside layer and some gas pressure in between might work. The outside will radiate the intense heat from the sun away and the gas layer would would wrap around to the dark side where it would be cold.

  3. Update: I’d recommend googling “Winogradsky columns”, it sounds like a good start if you want to experiment with producing methane from an artificial swamp. Check out the Production chapter in the wikipedia Methane article. Mentions methanogenesis (your biological route), but also mentions the Sabatier and Fischer-Tropsch industrial processes which do the same thing. These will be your competitors in the efficiency game. Good luck 🙂

  4. Yeah, i dream of a space based system based on algae. I want to see how dense it can be made, ultimately fit into an unobtrusive space-suit backpack along with a miniaturised fission or fusion reactor to supply it with light. Enough to supply the food and oxygen needs of the astronaut indefinitely, while also small enough to not impede their movements. The light would be incredibly intense, keeping the algae from VAPORISING would be quite a challenge 😀 ps: are you user SockPupperCommentary?

  5. i dunno man, “alternative energies” is a pretty huge topic. I think any kindof net you try to cast will be so generalized that it’ll always be interpreted as spam. I recommend narrowing/personalising your focus more in your advertising messages. ie: If talking on an algae video, then specifically link to your algae sub-forum. And make sure the messages are actually personalised for each video, not just copy-pasted “one-size-fits-all” same message on every video – that is definitely spam.

  6. Continued: I could be wrong but it may be significantly cheaper to both build and maintain a “solar cell and recycle batteries” solution. On the other hand, maned space flight for long duration in space will likely require looping human bio waste streams with algae back into food and oxygen. In this area, algae seems to be the most promising solution.

  7. I would like to see some one calculate a closed loop system where Given a specific generator’s annual energy needs, how much acreage is needed to capture the suns energy with algae, strain, dry and burn completely. Said system would use O2 created by algae to burn the algae fuel, and the CO2 to feed the growing algae, along with other nutrients being recycled; and then work out the capital cost to build and maintain such a system.

  8. cont… The algae has only absorbed maybe 1% of the solar energy, so this is the max energy you’re starting with, to digest it into methane brings it down further, each process is wasteful. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to digest, you can’t squeeze more blood outof the stone than was in the stone to begin with. 5yrs vs 100 yrs. If the solar+battery system produces 20X the energy, it can afford to be 20X the price or be replaced 20X as often (or a mix of those).

  9. Correct, that is what i’m saying. I do like your idea, i’m curious as to the specifics though so i can work out it’s advantages/disadvantages compared to other options. From how you’ve described it, it sounds like an artificial swamp connected to a landfill-gas operation, which is cool i guess. That “one harvest of algae”, digested over weeks, will still provide less than 1/30th the total energy that solar panels and batteries would have. Photosynthesis is just too inefficient. Continued…

  10. So you’re saying an algae farm that provides the feed source for a biogas generator is less efficient than solar panels and batteries? Despite the fact that the biogas generator can run day or night? Despite that one harvest of algae can create biogas for weeks, much longer than the batteries would last on a single charge? Despite the fact that if the system was built properly, it would require zero maintenance or repairs for 50-100 years compared to solar panels 20-30 and batteries 5-8?

  11. But you’re talking probably sub-1% solar efficiency all up. Probably much worse, but i don’t know any efficiency figures for algae-biomass to methane. Solar panels with ANY kindof batteries would beat that, no matter how much they needed replacing. It could be over 30X the cost of algae and would still be cheaper. Also bacteria will shade the algae in the photobioreactors if they are grown together, further reducing efficiency. Thus sterility is normally a very serious concern for growers

  12. The anaerobic microbes consume the algae sugars in a dark environment, i.e. a biogas digester, and create methane and fertilizer as a byproduct.  The fertilizer can be used to grow more algae. The methane can be stored and used to fuel whatever you want. The point of using algae is as a storage unit for solar energy instead of batteries. The algae can be “digested” day or night and on cloudy days, so they would be better than solar panels – and unlike batteries they have infinite service life.

  13. Woa i never even thought of combining it with anaerobic microbes and methane, that’s a good idea! Don’t burn it as a stationary fuel source though – photosynthesis is way too inefficient at converting sunlight into energy compared to modern solar panels. Instead use that methane as a transportation fuel; for cars, trucks, trains, planes, etc. For stationary power, use solar panels with energy storage (flow batteries, pumped hydro dams, compressed air), or solar thermal with heat storage.

  14. CO2 + sunlight + fertilizer = algae growth algae + anaerobic microbes = methane + CO2 + fertilizer biogas electric generator + methane = CO2 + electricity This is all a closed loop. The algae in this case are acting as a storage unit for solar energy. When we take the algae and break it down into fuel, we are essentially converting solar energy into fuel. This is a good thing because we can burn algae based fuel at night when the sun is down, and still benefit from the solar energy it imparted.

  15. Hi. I just started an online community for people who are interested in alternative energies. It is still just starting, but feel free to stop by and ask questions on the forum. Thanks. aerc.hoop . la/ P.S. please dont’ flag this as a spam, I am simply trying to unite people with a common interest in this subject and get more people to consider greener alternatives.. Thanks

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