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  • Hirschmugl awarded start-up grant to study use of algae to remove CO2 from coal fired power plant smokestacks

    It's well documented that the makeup of the earth’s atmosphere and thus climate has altered as a result of the ubiquitous and voracious burning of fossil fuels humans have adapted for manufacturing, transportation, heating and electrical generation. A particularly problematic waste product is carbon dioxide; and equally puzzling is devising ways to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

    SRC user Carol Hirschmugl (University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee) along with collaborators wonders if algae might be the answer. They are closer to understanding this possibility better thanks to receiving a seed grant award this week from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee Foundation. The idea is to identify which algal species are best suited to trap CO2 in order to develop algal "farms" that would grow these species in mass.

    "Determining how algae react to such nutrient stresses [such as high nitrogen and high CO2] is an urgent need for planning algal farms to recycle and sequester CO2. Our long-term goal is to identify microalgal species that can be sustained in highly concentrated CO2 environs produced by Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) exhaust and to extract quantitative biochemical results from spectroscopic data using advanced chemometric methods, potentially leading to an algal farm using We Energies FGD exhaust," explains Hirschmugl.

    The grant program is part of the newly launched Southeastern Wisconsin Energy Technology Research Center (SWETRC), whose mission is to develop a research center in southeast Wisconsin that is a university/industry partnership.

    The contribution of this new project "is significant because it could help optimize a means to trap harmful anthropogenic CO2 from power plant emissions and recycle this C into useful forms such as lipids for biofuels or sequester it as carbonate shells," Hirschmugl continues.

    Hirschmugl’s group maintains a very active presence at the SRC, where a state of the art, one of a kind mid-infrared beamline was installed recently thanks to an NSF instrumentation grant.

    Further information here.