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A Glimpse of The MIT’s Algae Photo Bioreactor

9 February 2009 5 Comments

An algae photo bio reactor prototype was installed on the roof of the MIT’s power station. This excellent piece of technology will use algae to feed on the gases that are released from the smoke stacks. It will then go on to absorb a large quantity of the pollutants it gives off.


A series of tubes are used to collect the gas from the smokestacks as the algae absorbs most of the pollution the gas is then left 80% cleaner.

The algae are then collected and can be re-used as bio fuel. The algae converts the dangerous carbon into completely harmless organic compound which is so safe it can even be drunk. We know this because it is believed many of the workers from the station start their hard days with work with and energy drink made from the algae.

However this experiment does not remove the pollution that those smoke stacks give off. It has not been removed from the world it has just been absorbed by the algae. So basically it does not get rid of those carbon emissions.

We have to start somewhere though and this could lead to a scientific breakthrough and one day they may discover something that does get rid of those carbon emissions.


  • Aryss said:

    This is why scientists should rule the world.

  • bruce m. said:

    what do you mean when you say “it’s not removed, it’s just absorbed”?

    if people can drink it or it can be used as fuel, it’s been turned into something useful. i’d say that “removed”…it’s not going into atmosphere but becomes food or fuel.

    that’s kind of like saying trees and other plants (algae is a plant after all) ARE pollution? umm…dude??? oil, wood, coal, paper, etc. are just carbon that is in a solid form..when it is burned it is OXIDIZED (that’s what burning, a chemical reaction called OXIDATION) to produce CO2 (Carbon+Oxygen).

    our bodies OXIDIZE food that we eat, and we produce CO2, which plants then breathe in, take the carbon out to add to their bodies, and that gives O2, which is the oxygen we breathe. see, it’s a cycle.

    what is going on here is that the algae (it could be other plants) are just breathing it in before it goes out and causes global warming or whatever.

    i’m not sure i’d eat that stuff myself, on the chance that it might be contaminated with other pollutants..but this is an area i don’t know about. if they are consuming it, then it’s probably not.

    people that grow plants in greenhouses often tell you they will sit with their plants, which helps the plants, and it helps you too, to breathe all that clean oxygen. this is probably where the “talking to your plants” idea comes from….it’s likely not the voice, but the CO2 that you are giving that plants that causes them to grow faster.

    personally, i think that we could grow huge gardens of things like cotton, hemp, etc. by pumping the exhaust from factories (after the usual scrubbing for really toxic stuff) into huge domes or greenhouses full of plants that we can then use for fuel, fiber, and maybe food.

    this is how the Earth itself works. the problem lately is that humans are burning a lot, and cutting down trees, so the balance has been thrown off. but then i’ve read about huge ALGAE blooms in the oceans, so there is a chance that the balance will correct itself. i’m sure it would if we took the proper steps.

  • Aryss said:

    On an afterthought, I wonder if you could use the algae as compost? Global warming AND world hunger in one stroke?

  • Brian said:

    This project was completed in 2007 and removed from MIT’s power plant. I know because I worked on it and helped take it down.
    This project was a part of GreenFuel’s research and development, and is currently in the process of scaling up to a commercial basis. For more information, please visit http://www.greenfuelonline.com

  • Sustainable Now said:

    Absolutely Algae can be used as compost. In fact, that’s one of the ways that Carbon is actually sequestered by using Algae.

    Carbon is absorbed into the Algal Cell, serving as a carrier for other particles to attach to (like Hydrogen, etc.)

    When the Algae reaches maturity, it is then ‘Cracked’ (the cell walls are broken) and the Oil is separated from the rest of the Algal Cell (which is then referred to as Bio-Mass). The oil can be used as straight SVO (Bio-Diesel). The Bio-Mass can indeed be used as compost/fertilizer for plants. In fact, much of the carbon eaten by the Algae during growth remains in the Bio-Mass, and does not further pollute the oil layer. The oil layer primarily consists of Hydro-Carbons at a 1:1 ratio (clean burning fuel, with a low carbon content).

    If one would prefer, the Bio-Mass can also be fed to what is called an anaerobic digester, to create electricity without releasing further carbon into the atmosphere. (Burning the bio-mass in a turbine for electricity WOULD release that Carbon, unless the power plant re-captured it for further use as Algae food…)

    Hope that helps…

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