Empowering Algae To Make Electricity, That Is

Maybe next we'll grow our own electricity. Paul Jenkins, an engineering professor at the University of the West in Bristol, England, already does. He harvests kilowatts of power from lowly algae.

His gadget, called Biocoil, produces bumper crops of algae by suspending the organisms in a nutrient broth and circulating it through a clear plastic tube warmed by sunlight. Some algae are continuously siphoned off, filtered, dried, then chopped into fine particles. These are pressurized and injected into a diesel engine, providing 85% of its fuel as it drives an electrical generator. The carbon dioxide produced by the engine is recycled back to the Biocoil to feed the algae. Jenkins says the system should generate power as cheap as that from new coal-fired plants. Biocoil's maker, London-based Biotechna, heads a consortium that plans to finance a 600-kw pilot plant.

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