Scum of the Air

Whittelsey, Frances Cerra
May 2006
Sierra;May/Jun2006, Vol. 91 Issue 3, p13
The article reports that in an initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's 20-megawatt campus power plant, chemical engineer Isaac Berzin has mounted an algae-containing structure atop the plant. The 30 clear plastic pipes are pond-scum green, full of one-celled algae fighting global warming. The algae are eating carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides from the plant's emissions, and turning them into harmless oxygen and nitrogen. Each day, an algae crop is harvested that could be dried and converted to solid fuel or processed into biodiesel or ethanol, transforming a pollution problem into a moneymaker. Berzin came across the algae idea in a 1996 government report while working on a project for the International Space Station and was immediately impressed with the possibilities. It would be a dream solution for the industry, given that 40 percent of carbon dioxide and 25 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions in the U.S. come from electric power plants.


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