MSU research to use algae to capture emissions from power plants

[USA] A research team from Michigan State University (MSU) has found a way to use algae-based technologies to capture emissions from power plants and turn them into valuable products.

The research project which is supported by US Department of Energy’s $1m grant, includes faculties from the university’s Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering department and Chemistry department in a three-year cross-disciplinary effort.

MUS biosystems and agricultural engineering associate professor and project director Wei Liao said “We’ve been running bioenergy experiments with algae on campus for over a decade.

“We’re now testing a novel technique not only to mitigate power plant emissions, but also to turn them into new sources of revenue.”

Green algae can capture carbon dioxide and other green house gases from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. But, a single 100MW coal-fired power plant produces about 4000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each day, would require thousands of acres of land to culture algae, which is not feasible for most power plant facilities.

The research plans to use a process known as ‘biomass cascade conversion’ which can condense the process into something which is viable from economic and energy standpoint. The process optimises the components of algae to produce high value chemicals and biofuels.

One of the main products from the research is to develop an environmentally friendly and an efficient absorbent that can absorb higher amounts of carbon dioxide and it can only needs less space. The research group claims that such conversion offers significant economic benefits both for the environment and the power plant.

The cascade conversion will produce byproducts such as polyurethanes, biodiesel, and other value-added chemicals and fuels with a wide range of applications.

The project will take place at T.B. Simon Power Plant located on MSU’s campus. Liao’s team will be working with PHYCO2, a California-based company produces algae for industrial applications.

 

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