Algae are simple plants that can range from the microscopic (microalgae), to large seaweeds (macroalgae), such as giant kelp more than one hundred feet in length. Microalgae include both cyanobacteria, (similar to bacteria, and formerly called “blue-green algae”) as well as green, brown and red algae. (There are more varieties of microalgae, but these are the main ones.)
Algae are emerging to be one of the most promising long-term, sustainable sources of biomass and oils for fuel, food, feed, and other co-products. There are many benefits to growing algae:
Source: All About Algae Website
The Sustainability Learning Lab will use the Open Pond System (similar to the example below) to grow algae, which is the most common system.
Image source; Building Open Ponds: by David Sieg
The 1,200 square foot open algae pond will be state of the art with a web linked monitoring system. Students will create biofuels out of pond algae which will be grown outdoors in the warm months. In the winter, students will extract sugars from stover (corn waste left in the field after harvest) to feed to the algae which will in turn make lipids that can be turned into biofuel. According to Dr. John Kyndt, "“It’s mainly for research purposes. We are trying to optimize the process. What types of algae species can do best indoors and outdoors? Which ones make the most lipids, makes the most biodiesel? What can we feed them?”
Construction of the algae pond is underway right outside the greenhouse next to the native plants garden.
June 2021 - under construction