Our science department would like to start a project investigating the use of Algae as a biofuel. Can you give any starting points? I think it would be interesting to grow and harvest energy from an alternative source. We have a limited budget so we would need cheap experiments!
As a starter, we would suggest that you grow algae in 2 litre pop bottles. Maybe you can start off with a culture from pond water, but algal cultures are available to buy. ( http://www.blades-bio.co.uk/proddetail.asp?prod=LZA210 ). First you need to find out how to grow the algae.
1) To demonstrate that algae have calorific value to use as a biofuel.
The algae could be centrifuged, the pellet dried, weighed and then burnt in a food calorimeter to measure the fuel value of the harvested algae.
2) To investigate the growth of the algae.
The rate of growth of the culture can be monitored by using an "OPALmeter" to get daily measurements without destroying the culture (shake before measuring)
Variables you could investigate are:-
- Different light intensities
- Different CO2 levels
- Different mineral concentrations (especially nitrates - link to eutrophication) or use different concentrations of "baby bio".
- Different temperatures
- Different aeration techniques
1 and 2 can be combined to find out how to get the most fuel for the least inputs.
3) Algae are especially attractive as they make oils. Perhaps this can be separated from the aqueous components? We are looking into this further.
I hope this gets you started. Do let us know how you get on.