July 14, 2008

Algae-to-hydrogen system closes the loop

The most efficient way to use biomass as an energy source is a closed-loop system that recycles the byproducts of the processes that turn organic matter like plants and algae into electricity. A scheme that uses algae to generate hydrogen for fuel cells promises to close the loop by putting waste carbon dioxide and heat back into the system.

The system produces biogas from algae in a reactor, then converts the biogas to hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen powers fuel cells, which generate electricity and heat. The waste carbon dioxide is pumped back to the algae to help it grow, and the waste heat is pumped to the reactor to help produce the biogas.

Research paper:
Combination of Biological Processes and Fuel Cells to Harvest Solar Energy
Journal of Fuel Cell Science and Technology, August 2008

Researcher's homepage:
Herbert Michael Heise

Related stories and briefs:
Solar and algae projects funded
Pond scum ethanol

Further info:
BioSolarEnergy -- PDF of slides corresponding to paper

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