Researchers in the land of sunflowers are looking for a way to convert sunshine into algae… and then into biodiesel.
The Lawrence (KS) Journal-World & News reports University of Kansas scientists are working on one of just a few in the world functioning, pilot-scale bioreactors connected to a municipal wastewater treatment plant, where they’re turning sewer waste into the green fuel:
“From the point of view of the EPA, this should be like heaven,” said Val Smith, a KU professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “We’re harnessing a waste, making it do work for America, and purifying it all at the same time.
“It’s like a win-win-win-win-win.”
The KU effort is being financed by the university’s Transportation Research Institute, using money from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Bob Honea, the institute’s director, is confident that the work of KU researchers — collaborating on a “Feedstock to Tailpipe” program that includes a wide variety of biofuel efforts — is on the right track. Gasoline prices eventually will return to $4 a gallon or more, he said, and the world will continue to seek ways to lessen a reliance on petroleum.
Using algae to make biodiesel simply makes sense, Honea said, given the aquatic organisms’ built-in advantages compared with traditional crops: higher yields on less land.
KU officials believe they are the verge of a major breakthrough.