I've been saying for years that I thought the true potential of algae was not in biofuels, but in residential algae architecture, home fuel, waste systems and other related products. Since algae based biofuels is pretty much a reality, research is now spreading out into other areas just the way we predicted it would.
The National Science Foundation Sustainable Energy Pathways Program (NSF) for example, just awarded a $1.6 million dollar grant to Georgia Institute of Technology College of Architecture and Ohio University. Working together this group will be studying algae-based biofuel systems to meet the energy needs of homes and communities, their potential, and how to optimize them, and integrate them, into communities.
Daniel Castro, of Georgia Tech School of Building Construction and a lead investigator on the project said “Our interdisciplinary approach addresses a significant need for sustainable energy systems that integrate waste stream management with renewable power generation; the sustainability of this concept will be applied first to a single-family residence, and then scaled to investigate the potential for implementation at the community scale.”
Translation for the rest of us: "We hope to come up with ways to create renewable energy (algae biofuels) using sewer and household waste. We'll first create a system for a single house, then scale it to meet the requirements of a community."
The Georgia Tech team, led by Castro, includes Perry Yang and Charles Rudolph from the College of Architecture. The team will focus on the design, construction, and evaluation of residential buildings using the algae-based technology for energy.
Rudolph will perform undergraduate and graduate architectural shops on neighborhood design and flexible reuse, getting neighborhood groups and design programs in the re-envisioning of houses and residential towns and cities.
Yang will be looking for top level ecological situations in urban, suburban and country settings. Castro will focus on sewer and energy creation models into homes, taking into account issues with constructability, material procurement, operation and safety. The Ohio University team, led by Ben Stuart, will experiment with and design the algae-based energy system being employed in the residential building, to make sure it makes financial sense as well as examine any possible hazards involved.
What is becoming clear is the algae revolution is taking off in 2013. We're seeing algae reaching into areas never thought of. From biofuels, to microfarming now into architecture.