Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

October 13, 2013

Will Goshen become AlgaeTown?

GOSHEN — Ever think algae might be the next great fuel source on earth? If a small group of researchers at Goshen College have anything to say about it, it very well might be.

The idea of using algae as a viable alternative energy source — picture that layer of green slime you sometimes see floating on the top of lakes or ponds — is by no means a new one.

In reality, algae is simply the name given to a very large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms (able to synthesize food from inorganic substances, using light or chemical energy). Such organisms can be single- or multi-cell.

For the past 40 years or so, researchers have been working to develop algae as a viable solution to the world’s increasing demand for readily available and renewable sources of food and fuel.

However, while algae’s rapid growth rate, effective energy concentration and waste remediation abilities have long been touted as a potential fix for our global energy and food production issues, efforts up to this point to successfully harvest and utilize that potential on a large scale — and in a cost effective manner – have largely been unfruitful.

And that’s where AlgaeTown comes in.

Local research

AlgaeTown is the name given to a research project underway at Goshen College, which began four years ago with a partnership between GC Professor Emeritus of Biology Stan Grove and Formco Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dave Slagel.

Through AlgaeTown, students at Goshen College and employees at Elkhart plastics company Formco Inc. are combining their research efforts with the long-term goal of discovering ways to efficiently grow and harvest algae as a potential source of sustainable food and fuel.

Aaron Kauffmann, a fifth-year senior at the college majoring in biochemistry, is project leader for the AlgaeTown project.

“I came in after about the first year, and then even before that there was a year of collecting the algae samples, growing the algae samples, and then there was pretty much two or three years of making everything work,” Kauffmann said of the project’s beginnings. “Now we’re actually collecting data, and ideally, if it keeps being collected as it has been for the last semester, we should be able to get feasibility for if it would be commercially viable.”

Feasibility or no, apparently that data is already beginning to pay off in other ways, as the team is well on its way to solving several of the major issues associated with the large-scale production of algae for use as an energy source.

“A lot of the issues we’ve encountered are a lot of the same issues that have confronted most of the industry,” Kauffmann said. “The first issue is really, how do you grow it efficiently, because it needs to be circulated somehow, and of course you need to put in enough energy to aerate it. So a lot of people have issues with growing it and putting too much energy into it that you can’t get back out.”

Kauffmann also pointed to some of the main issues associated with collecting the algae, such as using a centrifuge — an apparatus that rotates at high speed and by centrifugal force separates substances of different densities — to separate the algae from the water it is contained in.

“Using a centrifuge is very energy intensive,” Kauffmann said. “So what we’re trying to do is make a system that gives us a minimal surface area for a large volume of algae to grow.”

Text Only
Local News
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

Last weekend (July 12) the Goshen Parks Department held its Kid’s Try-athlon to promote childhood fitness and this week (July 18) the new bicycle trail is open to the fairgrounds in Goshen, offering residents a healthy way to get to the annual agriculture exposition. Have you joined the local fitness movement?

Yes, I work at eating healthy and exercising
No, I am happy with my fitness level
Changing my diet and exercise frequency is a work in progress
     View Results
AP Video
Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return