Carbon dioxide, often criticized, can however become a useful resource. Indeed, different strategies used to exploit the CO2 produced by fossil fuels are being studied.
Thus, ENEL Ricerca's Brindisi laboratory is studying the possibility of using carbon dioxide to accelerate the development of microalgae which absorbs it during chlorophyll photosynthesis. These same microalgae can then be used to extract valuable chemical compounds or to obtain fuels.
Gennaro De Michele, the project manager, explains: "In our laboratory, we are experimenting with the possibility of producing microalgae cultures in an enriched growth environment, with a carbon dioxide level equal to that present. in the smoke of the factories ”. It would therefore be possible to feed the ponds where the plants are grown directly with the waste from the power plants. From Michele specifies: “We are currently working with the algae Phaeodactylum tricornutum, which has
very interesting properties. In fact, several polyunsaturated fatty acids are extracted from this plant, which are valuable for our organism, belonging to the Omega 3 family. In addition, it would be possible to extract biodiesel from this algae.
The idea of exploiting carbon dioxide for the cultivation of useful microalgae is also followed in other countries of the world: in the United States, for example, cultures of microalgae in an environment enriched with carbon dioxide already exist. , and applications of this type are also present in Brazil and India.
“We are still in an experimental phase - explains De Michele. However, today already in the laboratory, in the presence of high concentrations of carbon dioxide, our microalgae grow up to 3 times faster. "
However, this route is not a comprehensive solution to the carbon dioxide problem. De Michele explains: "This is an extremely complex challenge, in which we have to act with different parameters: first, the efficiency of the installations, the use of renewable energies and finally, the storage and the use. carbon dioxide.
This last route is very interesting and can lead to obtaining valuable chemical compounds, such as polycarbonates for example; a produce renewable energy in the form of biomass; or to produce rocks in which the carbon dioxide is permanently fixed. Cultivation of microalgae is one such route, but even if it were used for the production of biodiesel, it would only absorb a small part of the overall CO2 production. "
source: The sun 24 hours, 11 / 11 / 2004