NASA working on algae filtering

Interesting idea (from this article) to use a membrane suspended in water to isolate the crop, but it’s equivalent to a greenhouse in the ocean — a biofouling nightmare me thinks.

There has got to be a way to do it — sustainably farm the open HNLC expanses of ocean — with all the right analogs: organic fertilizer, crop rotation, natural biocontrols (“beneficial planktivores?”), windrows and combines, watermills and composting.

Excerpt from the Berkeley algae lab story:


AC: What are you doing for NASA?

AB: We’re developing large-scale systems that are combining biofuel and fertilizer production with wastewater treatment and production of fresh air and fresh water. We’re using large membrane enclosures floating in bodies of water. It’s a low-energy, low-resource way of growing algae.

One budding thing of NASA technology – we’re working on a clever way of removing algae from water.

We’re focused on the biofuel aspect at NASA. For biofuel, you want a species that produces a lot of oil. Many species of algae can produce huge amounts of oil — they can be more than 50 percent oil by weight, compared to normal plants that only produce a few percent.

Algae can produce about 100 times more than typical oil plants like soybeans, on a per acre basis. You can grow enough algae to replace all of the fossil fuel in an area that’s small enough to be manageable. You don’t need to use farmland, there’s not much remaining in the world ready to be used, and you don’t need fresh water. The nice thing about algae is while they cleans water and air, they can produce very valuable things like fuel, fertilizer and food. They’re precursers for bioplastics, cosmetics and medicines.

It’s a new kind of farming, potentially very low impact and sustainable.

Leave a Reply