Fuel without fossils Jonathan Trent set out to understand if there was a way to develop biofuels that would compete with fossil fuels, but not compete with agriculture. His proposed solution is extraordinary: Make an enclosure with plastic and let algae grow in sunlight in the ocean, taking in wastewater from cities. Generated heat will be […]Continue reading
Why you should listen
Jonathan Trent works at NASA’s nanotechnology department, where he builds microscopic devices out of proteins from extremophiles -- bacteria that live in the world’s harshest environments. It isn’t the logical place to start a biofuel project. But in 2008, after watching enzymes chomp through plant cells, Trent started thinking about biofuels. And, because he has a background in marine biology, he started thinking about algae and the oceans.
Thus was born OMEGA, or the Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae. This technology aims at re-using the wastewater of coastal cities that is currently piped out and disposed into the seas. Fueled by the sun and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the algae eat the waste and produce oils that can be converted to fuel. Unlike growing corn for ethanol, OMEGA doesn’t threaten the world’s food supply.
What others say
“[Trent’s] process is amazingly simple.” — New York Times, May 12, 2009