LATEST UPDATES » Big Data, Bigger Disease Management and Current preparations to manage the Future Health of Singaporeans       » Big Data in Clinical Research Sector       » Professor Yuk-ling Yung receives Gerard P. Kuiper Prize       » AXA Assistance on Regenerative Medicine       » Singtel – Singapore Cancer Society Race against Cancer 2015       » Jardiance® is the only diabetes medication to show a significant reduction in both cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular death      
Seaweed forests could help power tropical islands
Harvesting seaweed 'forests' and feeding them into large underwater digesters could one day meet the world's energy needs, with nine per cent of the ocean floor being enough to replace fossil fuels entirely, according to an ambitious idea.

Even a more immediate and realistic use of seaweed — a major untapped resource — would greatly increase the self-sufficiency and sustainability of small island states, but limited investment is preventing the roll-out of relevant technologies, marine biofuel experts have said.

Using wild or farmed seaweed to fuel anaerobic digesters could provide local communities with abundant energy through biogas as well as producing fertiliser, according to Antoine N'Yeurt, a researcher at the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

"These applications will reduce the dependency of small island countries on imports and build much more sustainable societies," he said. "This technology could become widespread as soon as there is funding to scale it up."

Anaerobic digestion is a well-established technique that produces methane and a rich by-product ideal for fertiliser by fermenting a range of organic matter.

However, work was needed to identify the conditions and equipment required to optimize the method for marine biomass, said N'Yeurt.

He began a pilot project in Fiji in January — the first attempt to use seaweed for biofuel production in the Pacific region, he said — to achieve just this, using a US$200 digester designed for a family that is ideal for poor and isolated communities.

With much of the US$10,000 grant being spent on laboratory work however, he said, more funding was needed if the technology were to become widespread.

Small-scale operations are perfect for Pacific islands, according to N'Yeurt, but, along with a collective of professors and researchers called the Ocean Foresters, he sees this technology as having worldwide importance.

Underwater forests

Mark Capron, president of PODenergy, a company exploring the use of algae as an energy source, who presented the group's ideas at the conference, envisages a world where seaweed can meet the world's energy needs without adding to carbon emissions.

Giant balloon-like anaerobic digesters on the seabed could use the natural pressure of the deep ocean to speed up the fermentation that leads to biogas production, fed by vast cultivated forests of seaweed, he said.

Covering nine per cent of the ocean floor in these forests could provide enough energy to replace fossil fuels, while removing carbon from the atmosphere and increasing fish stocks by replacing bare ocean floor with a more-productive ecosystem, he says.

While some delegates were skeptical about this proposed scale, which Capron himself admits is "rather optimistic", there has been interest in his idea.

For example, feasibility studies have been published in a peer-reviewed journal and his ocean forestation scheme was a finalist in a competition run by Climate CoLab — a crowdsourcing platform for climate change solutions run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States.

If this dream is to become a reality, governments and donors must drop their reluctance to support the pilot projects required to take the technology from theory to practice, said Capron.

Alex Golberg, a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, United States, who has published a paper on using seaweed for biofuel production, agrees that governments have a crucial role to play in the technology's development.

Governments must be prepared to build a solid foundation by supporting demonstration projects and further research before private companies step in to scale up the technology, he says.

Apart from financial issues, the technology is "ready to go" in small communities, he says. His research suggests that the process becomes more efficient at smaller scales, making it ideal for isolated Pacific communities with abundant seaweed.

However, the technique has yet to be proven on large scales, so Capron's idea is still a long way from reality, he adds.

Jan Piotrowski
Source: Science Development Network

Click here for the complete issue.


Credits to Sony Computer Entertainment and click here for behind the scenes.

APBN Editorial Calendar 2015
Trends and Predictions for 2015 Robotics in Healthcare Nutrition Universal Health Coverage
Start-Up Biotech Companies Preventative and Translational Medicine Biofuels ASEAN Economic Community and Asia's Life Sciences Industry
Big Data: Healthcare and Drug Development Antibody Engineering in Japan Christmas Edition
APBN Editorial Calendar 2016
Korea's Biotechnology Industry Nutrition and Allergies: Are we, Too Clean? Medical Devices and Technology: Innovation that leaves an Inspiration Tobacco Smoking: The 'Real' Cost of One Cigarette
Life-Saving Opportunities: A Guide to Regenerative Medicine Occupational Health Water Technology Olympics: Evolution of Sports
Respiratory: Seasonal flu viruses
About Us
Available issues
Editorial Board
Letters to Editor
Instructions to Authors
Advertise with Us
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd.
5 Toh Tuck Link, Singapore 596224
Tel: 65-6466-5775
Fax: 65-6467-7667
» Editorial Enquiries: biotech_edit@wspc.com
» For Subscriptions, Advertisements &
   Media Partnerships Enquiries:
   Ms PoPo Kwok or Ms Sok Ching Lim
Copyright© 2015 World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd  •  Privacy Policy