High School Science Fair Project Turned into a Business
by Josh Wolf
I started researching algae about 2 years ago. I became very fascinated about algae's capability to sequester carbon dioxide. This deep interest eventually turned itself into science fair project about using lighting methods with algae to increase photosynthetic efficiency to increase carbon sequestration yields. After presenting my project I later became interested in algae biodiesel after reading an article about Botryococcus Braunii and its +50% oil capacity.
I began extensively trying to grow algae production systems bigger and bigger. I went from small 2 liter bottle photobioreactors to a 2,000 liter tank that was run off of solar power. I created this tank out of wood and painters plastic. After about a week, the algae had finally grown enough to make reasonable quantities of oil. I filtered out the water and was astonished at producing 60Kg of algae biomass! After drying and pressing the oil, I was able to produce about 1.5 gallons of oil which turned into 1.6 gallons of diesel fuel (methanol and lye added).
I presented my project to my new science teacher at my high school and he became very interested in helping me take this whole project to the next step.
I am currently working on filing for a Department of Energy grant to make a 1/2 acre open algae pond to produce over 100,000 gallons of oil a month.
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