An Israeli company has developed a cost effective way to capture carbon emissions that may offer a way out for coal fired power plants looking to curb pollution. Seambiotic Limited cultivates microalgae using carbon emissions from power plants and is in talks with government organisations to set up a pilot project in India.
Microalgae or microphytes are tiny organisms that do not have stems or roots like higher plants but perform photosynthesis like them using carbon dioxide and sunlight. Ami Ben-Amotz, chief advisor of Seambiotic, said the technology uses wastes of electric power plants to cultivate microalgae in seawater which are used to produce neutraceuticals, biodiesel and bio-ethanol among other things.
The technology puts emissions from factory stacks called flue gas to good use. A wet scrubbing system, using sea water, absorbs the sulphur dioxide in the flue gas. The carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the flue gas is diverted into ponds where algae are cultivated. Flue gas contains 13 per cent CO2 and can produce 20 gramme algae per square metre a day. The cost of producing one kilogramme of algae is estimated at US $0.34. The only limitation of using this technology is that it requires large spread of land for cultivating algae and the site has to be near sea.
Down To Earth, February 16 - 28, 2010.