In my travels I meet a lot of students who are keenly interested in science based programs. Our much heralded Conservation Biology and Ecological Engineering Programs seem to fit the bill quite nicely for these folks. I often get the question: What do the folks in those departments do? Well, I stumbled across this fascinating article from Salem-News.com discussing the work of Ecological Engineering Prof Ganti Murthy.
(CORVALLIS, Ore. ) – Researchers at Oregon State University are working to find an efficient method of processing bio-diesel fuel and ethanol from one of the worldâ€™s most plentiful organisms â€“ algae â€“ which could lead to breakthroughs in reducing the world’s dependency on petroleum.
Applying the findings to mass-produce algae and extract its oils could be five to 10 years in the future, but the advantages are worth the wait, according to Ganti Murthy, assistant professor of biological and ecological engineering at OSU.
Algae are versatile organisms that are “plant-like” but do not have a root system or leaves. Plants pull water and nutrients through their roots and release vapor through their leaves in a process called transpiration. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that an acre of corn transpires about 4,000 gallons of water a day. Because algae do not have such a vascular system, they use water only as a medium for growing.
While the fruition of this labor may be some years in coming, this is important work. Especially in lieu of recent discussions coming from researchers in OSU’s AREC department regarding the fact that, on the net, biofuels are less efficient than fossil fuels because of the effort and resources needed to produce enough corn for production.
Keep the discussion about Biofuels and sustainability going! Comment away!