Algae devour carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide, often de fi ned, can, however, become a useful resource. Indeed, different strategies used to exploit the CO2 produced by fossil fuels are under study.
For example, ENEL Ricerca's Brindisi laboratory is studying the possibility of using carbon dioxide to accelerate the development of micro-algae that 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 leader, explains: »In our laboratory, we are experimenting with the possibility of producing micro-algae cultures in an enriched growth environment, with a carbon dioxide level equal to that present in the factories smoke. It would therefore be possible to feed the basins where the plants are grown directly with the discharges of the plants. De Michele says: "We are currently working with the seaweed Phaeodactylum tricornutum, which has
very interesting properties. From this plant are extracted indeed several polyunsaturated fatty acids valuable for our organism, belonging to the family Omega 3. In addition, it would be possible to extract biodiesel from this algae.
The idea of ​​exploiting carbon dioxide for the cultivation of useful micro-algae is also followed in other countries of the world: in the United States, for example, micro-algae cultures in a carbon dioxide enriched environment 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 in the laboratory, in the presence of high concentrations of carbon dioxide, our micro-algae grow up to 3 times faster. "
However, this route is not a comprehensive solution to the problem of carbon dioxide. De Michele explains: "This is an extremely complex challenge, in which we have to act with different parameters: first, the efficiency of the facilities, the use of renewable energies and finally, the storage and use of carbon dioxide.
This latter route is very interesting and can lead to the production of valuable chemical compounds, such as polycarbonates for example; to produce renewable energy in the form of biomass; or to produce rocks in which carbon dioxide is definitely fixed. Microalgae cultivation is one of these pathways, but even if it was used for biodiesel production, it would only absorb a small part of the overall CO2 production. "

Read also: Conference: How to approach post Kyoto?

source: The sun 24 hours, 11 / 11 / 2004

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