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Page added on September 29, 2007

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ENVIRONMENT: Algae Against Climate Change?

BERLIN, Sep 29 (IPS/IFEJ) – Research into the use of algae to capture carbon dioxide from the air is changing the negative reputation of these organisms, often seen as a plague associated with agricultural fertiliser run-off.

Until very recently, the proliferation algae was interpreted as an undesirable consequence of the overuse of agro-chemicals, whose immediate results included skin irritation in humans and the death of aquatic fauna from lack of oxygen.
But their potential for absorbing one of the principal greenhouse gases — which cause global climate change — could be crucial for avoiding environmental catastrophes. Like terrestrial plants, the algae consume carbon during photosynthesis.

“We took algae from the ocean, we put it in plastic containers in greenhouses, where we fed it with carbon dioxide produced by conventional electric generators,” explained Laurenz Thomsen, a bio-geologist from Jacobs University in the northern German city of Bremen.

“Exposed to solar light, the algae transform the carbon dioxide into biomass that can later be used as biodiesel, whose combustion doesn’t emit greenhouse gases,” he added.

The Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Project (GGMP) is coordinated by Thomsen, with cooperation from the Bremen polytechnic university, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Marine Research, and several companies, including the European electricity supplier E.ON.

Thomsen has dubbed the small greenhouse “Algenreactor”, set up at Jacobs University, where the algae transform carbon dioxide into organic fuel. The project is operating at the experimental phase, producing just a half-litre of biofuel.

“The diesel that we refine here is absolutely organic. It satisfies the European standards. I’m confident that we will be able to move on to an industrial phase in the coming months,” he added.

Inter Press Service

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