Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, How Does Your AV Grow?

algae_450x300I want you to think of a tiny humble,  single-celled organism that is too small to be seen with the naked eye. It is so old that it roamed the earth long before there were dinosaurs, battled the planet’s early fire and brimstone epoch, through to the ice age and survived global flooding. It has adapted through everything Mother Nature has thrown at it. Yet it is so delicate and fragile that it can be carried effortlessly on wind and waves and draws its energy from sunshine and water, much like us.

This creature has re-evolved in millions of harsh microclimates, and without it Earth’s atmosphere would still be CO2 laden and we would not exist. It is everywhere on earth including recently discovered pockets deep inside the frozen Lake Vostok of Russia. It grows as one of more than 75,000 species thriving as one of an infinite number of strains. Some develop fast, some glacially slow. This organism is the first food for bacteria, ameba, fish, frogs, and many others. And compared to others, it grows in all directions, not just up, thriving in saltwater, brine, and even polluted or waste water. Most importantly it transforms sunshine into high-energy biomass.

I am talking about algae. You probably never really give it much thought, unless you live by a lake, pond or ocean and you hear on the news that an algae bloom has taken over. But this amazing creature, in particular nanocellulous algae, may soon be able to grow electronics and other things, all while cleaning the CO2 out of the air.

Nanocellulous is plant matter that has been broken down into microscopic bits, purified and then reconstructed. It is incredibly lightweight and Kevlar-strong. Current research on the subject has figured out a way to engineer Nobles’ blue-green algae with the bacteria Acetobacter xylinum. This bacteria has been proven to be able to manufacture nanocellulous, but not in any commercially-viable quantities nor inexpensively enough to make it worthwhile. Combining it with the algae, and a little sun and water, it should naturally produce nanocellulous in large quantities, inexpensively.

The expectation for applications is limitless, including the manufacture of loudspeakers or computer components in a way that is biodegradable, easily recyclable, and incredibly good for the environment. Even the energy from the photo synthesis can be harnessed to power devices. Recently a French scientist invented a lamp powered by micro-algae.

Maybe when you do your gardening in the future, you can plant a few amplifiers and speakers or a new projector.

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