Growing Algae in Old Apples
No, not apples as in the fruit, but Apples as in the computer. Several undergraduate and graduate students created an algae bioreactor out of old computer parts and ended up winning second place at the International Electronic Waste Competition. The goal of this competition was to find new ways in which old electronics can be reused other than traditional recycling methods. Here is what this group came up with:
Which is why the team chose to use old electronics to build the device called an algae bioreactor. It encourages photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that happens in plants, which uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugar.
“By using e-waste, you are giving a second life to all these electronics,” Kenney said.
The algae-growing tank was made from the side panels of an Apple G4 CPU tower, with PVC pipes and acrylic panels for structural support. The team used an Apple iMac CRT to emit the light and heat the algae needs to grow. The entire structure had to be sealed and housed within an outer cowell made of high-density foam, which provides stability as well as insulation.
A modified Dell Latitude CPX laptop was programmed to monitor and control the iMac CRT so that it would turn on a specific light spectrum at different intervals of time and adjust the temperature within the tank.
“Algae’s best growth factors are within the red and blue spectrums of light at a ratio of four to one,” Kenney said. “We also knew that it needed to be 62 to 82 degrees.”
The tank also has a water pump, which aerates the algae and provides it with the maximum exposure to sunlight. A faucet allows the user to extract the algae.
Don’t know if this idea will actually catch on since it relies on the ability for people to take the algae to processing plants for it to be converted into oil. However, if their math is correct, and only 6.5% of Americans need to have one in their homes to replace petroleum with biodiesel, it is a pretty impressive idea that could at least supplement commercial algae production in the future.