The Gas-Eating Mat
Another team of researchers will use nature to pull carbon dioxide out of exhaust streams of power plants and convert it to useful products such as oxygen and hydrocarbons. While humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, plants do just the opposite. INEEL chemical engineer Patricia Stoots, in collaboration with the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University, is working to develop a mat of algae that will use power plant emissions of carbon dioxide for food.
"Most biological processes for carbon sequestration use microorganisms in their planktonic state -- free cells," she said. "We are going to use a biofilm mat." Stoots will optimize how much carbon dioxide the mat of cells takes in by varying conditions such as the other nutrients she feeds it. She also plans on finding ways to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, the cellular process that transforms carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and releases oxygen at the same time.
In addition to performing her experiments at Montana State, Stoots will be enlisting civil engineering professor Calvin Abernathy at the University of Memphis to help create a durable biofilm mat. "We've worked together in the past," Stoots said. "We make a pretty effective team."
For the two-year study, Stoots and her collaborators were awarded $420,000 from the DOE's Fossil Energy Program. The study will also form the basis of Stoots' doctoral dissertation.
Stop that gas!
A third approach to carbon sequestration will exploit a membrane's ability to selectively block certain molecules. In a collaboration between Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of Col
Contact: Mary Beckman
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory