The work to realize the promise of algae as a fuel source has gone on since at least the 50s, with some of the seminal work done during the gas crisis of the Carter administration. It feels like algae ideas are once again everywhere. There’s the Intel Science Talent Search winner Sara Volz (I really love her name, sounds like a character in a Philip K Dick novel) and her work with artificial selection of high oil-yielding algae. Genetically engineered micro-algae is all the rage. Craig Venter, with his company Synthetic Genomics, is trying to take over the world with this. Here in Maryland there are a few companies, including Hy-Tek Bio and DSM/Martek engaged in algae commercialization. There is great promise in the potential ability of algae to re-mediate CO2/ environmental problems, and produce all kinds of high value chemicals, including fuels, polymers, pharmaceuticals, and food products. (the Soylent Green of the future will probably be algae, not people. . . but wait!. . . what. . .is . . . feeding the algae????!!!!!!)
Meanwhile, here at BUGSS. . .
After the initial “What the hell’s it doing” we have been thinking about uses for the airy, high surface area structures that our RepRap 3-D printer extrudes to fill the regions between the solid shells. We want to use these features to produce a 3-d biological reactor. Member Mark Rothstein has been printing up some structures. These surfaces might be made to grow something that biologically processes some material flowing through the high surface area region. Perhaps these reactors could be designed from transparent/ translucent material to produce a photo-reactor, so that we could build little micro-algae chemical factories! But we are stumbling through this, wondering if there isn’t someone close by to provide us with a little guidance
Then out of the Twitterverse pops Dr. Scott Williams graciously volunteering to give a talk. He recently presented a very nice overview of algae for fuels at IGNITE Baltimore 12. His expertise is in the use of algae for bio-remediation and fuel production. When we told him about some of our thoughts on 3-d printing of algae reactors, he enlisted his colleague, PhD candidate Julian Rosenberg, who is working on genetically modified algae for high value chemical production. These guys should provide the ideal introduction as a backdrop to an algae project here at BUGSS, with hopefully a lot of two way communication. Come join us! This event is FREE, but, of course, we'll happily accept a donation. Please let us know you're coming HERE.
So can Green Slime save the world? Maybe so, but Maybe not!
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