Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Biotech shorts

I thought I had talked about GreenFuel Technologies on this blog before, but it appears that I had not. They had an interesting concept, capturing flue gas and pumping it into algal reactors to grow algae. This algae would eventually be used for the production of ethanol and other by-products. Well, they've gone under.
Ideally, GreenFuel's plants would sequester greenhouse gases, help the U.S. get off foreign oil, and bring the company revenue from carbon credits and product sales.

Getting the whole thing to run smoothly, though, was tougher than expected. GreenFuel could grow algae. The problem was controlling it. In 2007, a project to grow algae in an Arizona greenhouse went awry when the algae grew faster than they could be harvested and died off. The company also found its system would cost more than twice its target.
If algae won't do the trick (algae probably can but the question is whether they can be properly monitored long term) what about artificial trees? That's the route that the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK is proposing.
According to the report, constructing 100,000 such "trees" – each costing around $20,000 – would require 600 hectares of land but would be enough to remove the CO2 from the UK's homes and transport system.
It'll be interesting which approaches, since there won't be a single "one size fits all" solution to this problem, will wind up taking hold.

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