Researchers Check Long Island Sound Algae As Biodiesel Source

December 11, 2008 at 4:16 pm Leave a comment

Algae might be near the bottom on the totem pole of life, but they could someday help power your car, and researchers from the University of New Haven will use a state grant to find out if any species found in Long Island Sound could become a viable source of biodiesel fue

“There are several [species] that hold promise,” said associate Professor Carmella Cuomo, the principal investigator and coordinator of the marine biology program at the university.

Research into the uses of algae is blooming around the world, but this is the first time that anyone has studied whether what grows in Long Island Sound can be used for biofuel, Cuomo said.

“It has the potential to do many things. Algae are great at taking up nitrogen and phosphates. If you have species that can be used for industrial purposes, you can grow them and make an industry, which is good for Connecticut,” Cuomo said.

In one sense, we already use algae for fuel: The oil we depend on started out as diatoms and other marine organisms, dating back hundreds of millions of years, Cuomo said. The organisms wound up on the ocean bottom, preserved in sediments, transformed into rock by geologic forces, pushed around on the shifting planet and eventually “cracked” — heated to the point where they turned into oil.

Basically, the scientists will try to short-circuit those geologic processes.

“We’re trying to shorten it a little,” Cuomo said.

She will share the $135,276 grant from the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology with Eddie Luzik of the university’s chemistry department. Luzik will try to identify which organisms have the right mix of lipids, or fats, and how best to extract the oil from them.

Cuomo will gather and study algae, cyanobacteria and phytoplankton in a search for the right ingredients. Students from UNH and two high schools, the Sound School in New Haven and the Bridgeport Regional Vocational Aquaculture School, will help.

The UNH grant is one of three awarded through the Connecticut Fuel Diversification Grant Program, administered and funded by the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development.

By DAVID FUNKHOUSER
The Hartford Courant

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Entry filed under: Dive In, Natural Waterfront, Region. Tags: , , , .

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