This Trip Brought to You by Scum and Sewage


Can Algae + Sewage = Biofuel?

NASA thinks so.

The agency is using their space technology here on earth with an experiment that has a dual mission – producing algae-based fuel and cleansing wastewater.

Here’s how it works. Sewage and algae is combined in NASA created OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae) bags and floated in the sea. The versatile OMEGA bags, originally created by NASA to recycle astronaut’s wastewater on long space missions, let the freshwater out and stop the seawater from getting in.

Meanwhile, the algae feed off the nutrients in the sewage, which in turn cleans up the water and produces fat-soluble lipids that can be used as biofuel and fertilizer.

There are a few technology hiccups to deal with, the biggest being trying to find a plastic strong enough to endure pounding waves and freezing temperatures without becoming too brittle for osmosis.

But once that’s accomplished, NASA researchers envisage the OMEGA’s eventually producing enough fuel for U.S. aviation needs which currently runs at 21 billion gallons a year.


Image: TheOtherJohn C