UIUC Algae Biofuels

Projects - Carbon Sequestration
UIUC Illini Algae

Carbon Sequestration
One of the main efforts developed through the UIUC Illini Algae project is flue-gas carbon sequestration from coal-fired power plants using algae cultivation. Algae consume carbon dioxide during autotrophic cell growth to regenerate biomass and reproduce. Algae are particularly well adept at consuming large amounts of carbon dioxide due to their rapid growth rates and cell doubling times. Under proper growth conditions certain algal species have been known to double their cell concentration in under 4 hours. Additionally, for every one pound of algae biomass produced the cells consume two pounds of carbon dioxide. Carbon not used for cell growth is also stored as neutral lipids inside the cell walls. These neutral lipids have a high energy content and can be extracted and converted into a biodiesel fuel. This process allows waste flue gas that would otherwise contribute to green house gases to be converted into a renewable fuel.

Abbott Power Plant Demonstration Project
Construction of a flue gas sample line and algal bioreactor system is currently underway at the Abbott coal and gas-fired power plant located on the university's campus. Abbott Power Plant, located at 1117 S. Oak St. in Champaign, is the primary provider of the campus energy and heat supply and was constructed in 1941. Thanks to funding from the Student Sustainability Committee, the gas tap was installed during the fall of 2009. The sample line is located downstream of the coal boiler's electrostatic precipitators, which remove fly ash and particulate material, as well as the wet scrubbers, which are used to remove sulfur dioxide from the gas stream. The incoming gas is superheated and must be cooled using a cross-flow heat exchanger. During cooling, acidic gases can drop below their dew point and are collected using a moisture trap. The gas is then pumped using a rotary-vane compressor and delivered to pair of bioreactors at the south-end of the plant. Carbon dioxide monitoring equipment will also be installed at the inlet and outlet of the reactors to track the percent of CO2 sequestrated by the reactor tanks. Long term goals include integrating an open pond system on sight that will be supply wastewater as a nutrient source and operate continously to provide a contant stream of biomass for harvesting.

Plant Tours and Opportunities to Get Involved
Construction of a flue gas sample line to feed algal bioreactors is finally complete at Abbott Power Plant located on the University of Illinois campus. Scheduled demonstration tours are open to the public this fall semester. Volunteers are also always welcome to get involved and join the Illini Algae student organization. Please contact Derek Vardon at dvardon2@illinois.edu for further information.