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Biofuels made from algae and their practical implications
Matthew Coleman
Division:
Mathematics and Sciences
Department:
Marine Science
Mentor:
Rob Ellis
Mentor's e-mail:
rellis@occ.cccd.edu
Author's e-mail:
coleman.laxvl@gmail.com
Abstract:

The United Nations has labeled climate change the defining crisis of our time. The use of fossil fuels has become our most important source of economic growth, but also the primary contributor to the dramatic increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations since the Industrial Revolution. We would have to change our whole infrastructure for the production of alternative energy which is too expensive and not plausible. Biofuels represent a bridge of existing technology that can start reducing fossil fuel use immediately with a relatively simple and inexpensive conversion of existing diesel engines. However, for this to be an effective strategy, biofuels need to be grown on a much larger scale, more economically, and without the heavy dependence on potential food crops like corn. Imagine power plant CO2 emissions cut in half by the repurposing of those CO2 emissions for the growth of algae which produce a clean energy source. One idea for growing algae in an ecologically friendly manner would be to use high nutrient wastewater from treatment plants to fertilize the growth of fuel-producing algae. We would not have to change our whole infrastructure for the production of alternative energy. The primary intention of this project is to investigate different types of algae and determine which ones can be used to efficiently make biofuel. The practical applications of this research is reduce greenhouse emissions that are accelerating global warming. After growing or harvesting the algae we created biofuel using a process called transesterification. Each biofuel was burned to determine combustibility and therefore the species of algae which offered the most efficient biofuel. We found that not only is it possible to use algae found off our coast and in the OCC Aquarium to create biofuel, but we can use these to grow in ways where we will not impact our environment. The key is to reduce CO2 emissions in the short term while we work towards our ultimate goal of developing alternatives to eventually replace fossil fuels.

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