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Teen's Biofuel Invention Turns Algae Into Fuel

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the muck-in-the-truck dept.

Biotech 113

Lasrick writes "Evie Sobczak won a trip to Jet Propulsion Lab for her biofuel invention: 'For a fifth-grade science fair, Evie Sobczak found that the acid in fruit could power clocks; she connected a cut-up orange to a clock with wire and watched it tick. In seventh grade, she generated power by engineering paddles that could harness wind. And in eighth grade, she started a project that eventually would become her passion: She wanted to grow algae and turn it into biofuel.'"

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113 comments

Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (3, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 10 months ago | (#44033701)

to be a significant power sources without either destroying foodcrops or natural ecologicies, or get more than about 5% efficiency - less than a solar panel.

Makes for a cute story though, as do all these biofuel stories. Keeps everyone hopeful, despite the complete silliness.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033743)

to be a significant power sources without either destroying foodcrops or natural ecologicies

And when has that ever stopped us before?

Been there, done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033789)

Old is new again!

http://video.pbs.org/video/1216982026

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 10 months ago | (#44033815)

Think of it as... an alternative to solar panels for those that don't get a lot of sun.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 10 months ago | (#44033895)

Sun? What the fuck is that?

Signed,
a Canadian.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034185)

Sun? What the fuck is that?

Signed,
a Canadian.

It's just about solstice right now. Parts of Canada have 24 hour day light. All of Canada has really long days. If you really are in Canada, then you must be on the west cost. The rest of Canada has sun.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 10 months ago | (#44034291)

East coast, nowhere near the freezing parts. We've had around 5 to 10C for the last three days or so. If it snowed I wouldn't even be surprised.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 10 months ago | (#44035143)

Sun? What the fuck is that?

Signed,
a Canadian.

Hah damned if that isn't true, though people in Southern Ontario have had a pretty decent spring, and looking okay into summer. My sister out in Grande Cache, AB has had 3 weeks of straight rain. Today was supposed to be sunny, instead it was overcast.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 10 months ago | (#44037117)

Sure it's all fine and dandy, right up until the point where the algae becomes sentient, and then you are trapped in the basement with a 400 lb blob of algae looking at you as it's next meal.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033923)

Because algae can grow without sun?

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (2)

slashdime (818069) | about 10 months ago | (#44033853)

It's time for you to grow old and die. Why don't you spend the rest of your years writing to all the science fairs held around the world warning them that all the projects students submit have been done before?

Just because so far we have not does not mean that others will not learn something along the way to lead to new discovery. Don't you DARE presume that your limits are future generations' as well.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033871)

Don't you DARE presume that your limits are future generations' as well.

Most people are unintelligent; that has always been true. Following instructions isn't all too impressive.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (2, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 10 months ago | (#44034313)

Look, kid. I'm not trying to discourage this young woman. I *do* get irritated at repetitive, innumerate media stories which appear to be designed to quell a gullible populace rather than inform anyone about just what kind of an energy-deficit shitstorm is coming down in the pike at a much more rapid clip than I expected.

Don't you DARE presume that your limits are future generations' as well.
I'm pretty sure the laws of physics won't change in the medium term. :) There are answers, by the way. Thorium nuclear plus increased battery efficiency, or even just better batteries alone have at least a chance of saving our collective bacon long enough to get to sustainable fusion power. There's not much else on the horizon though. Seriously, most of the popsci junk regarding new energy breakthroughs is just that - junk.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44035061)

You, sir, are an ass.

Algae can be grown in a desert, using raw sewage as input. Zero farmland is used up.

Also, deserts can be filled with solar power to molten salt plants, a proven technology that generates electricity 24 hours a day.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 10 months ago | (#44036151)

But at least I have some education and can think things through. Did it occur to you that desert ecologies are worth preserving too? To think of them as wastelands suited only for humans is rather impressive arrogance.

Yes, you can use solar power to store the heat in salt. It's spiffy. It's great for local, small scale applications if you have the money. There's not enough desert to make it a practical alternative to current industrial scale power generation. Line losses getting it from point A to point B make it not worth doing on a large scale unless you live near, or in the desert (That said, this would work in the Sahel where power needs are smaller if you could get the money to build the plants in the first place)

Just go talk to an electrical engineer with time. You'll embarrass yourself less.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (2)

adolf (21054) | about 10 months ago | (#44036621)

As a retort to your first paragraph:

Yes, desert ecosystems are worth something.

So are all of the ecosystems that thrive on developed arable land, and forests, and swamps and marshes, and coastlines, and shorelines, and shallow water, and deep water, and brackish water, and...

Every sperm is sacred [wikipedia.org].

So what? Either we're more important than an existing ecosystem, or we're not, or we continue to burn fossil fuels and poison all of the ecosystems at the same time.

As a retort to your second paragraph:

There are lots other things that can be done with power other than immediately transmit it somewhere else, and there are plenty of deserts that are within shouting distance of populated cities.

As a retort to your third paragraph:

You just discredited everything you said by virtue of being deliberately insulting instead of helpful. Thanks, I guess, for letting us know that you're an asshole straight-away instead of saving it for later.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

InvalidError (771317) | about 10 months ago | (#44036823)

Line losses getting it from point A to point B make it not worth doing on a large scale unless you live near, or in the desert

The main problem with molten salt solar (and most other solar and wind renewables) is that every Wh of energy relies on man-made structures for collection and storage with associated on-going maintenance and operating costs which cuts into how large this can cost-effectively scale up to and how much of a transmission loss can be afforded at a given retail price point.

Long distances work well for (very) large hydro projects: Hydro-Quebec has ~16GW of production at James Bay, ~800km from the nearest major citirs and Quebec still gets some of the lowest retail power rates in NA despite having some of the longest transmission lines in the world since on-going production costs are very low thanks to nature doing 99.9% of the job on its own. Doesn't work so well for smaller plants of any type with much higher on-going production costs per MW.

Still an ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44037531)

Despite being right on these points, you're still an ass.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 10 months ago | (#44037813)

Algae can be grown in a desert, using raw sewage as input. Zero farmland is used up.

Also, deserts can be filled with solar power to molten salt plants, a proven technology that generates electricity 24 hours a day.

WIllfully ignoring any sense of an existing desert ecology in the process.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44038217)

blah blah blag, boy invents...This is crap and wont go anywhere. Green jobs and energy is crap and going no where. Take your battery powered cars and shove that poison up your a$$ too.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44037267)

Thorium reactor are a broken concept. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-Hochtemperaturreaktor#Probleme_und_St.C3.B6rf.C3.A4lle

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 10 months ago | (#44040505)

That version of a Thorium reactor is broken because it was just a rehash of existing reactors. Read up on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors [wikipedia.org] to see what a state-of-the-art reactor can be. It solves MANY of the existing problem with solid fuel reactors.

Re: Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44035675)

don't whine like a dumb bitch.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (2)

strugk (2792143) | about 10 months ago | (#44033877)

5% is still much more [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org] then most natural biomass achieve. Scalling up is also not always necesary. PV systems or wind turbines will never be the size of a nuclear power plant, but still they collectivly can be influential.

The problem with wind turbines ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44036159)

... is that the energy they generate actually cost DOUBLE of what fossil fuel energy cost. And the reason is because maintenance is a hell of a lot more expensive and required more often that people actually think.

Re:The problem with wind turbines ... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#44038265)

:... is that the energy they generate actually cost DOUBLE of what fossil fuel energy cost.

So you're saying that we just have to wait until the fossil fuel cost doubles?

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44033921)

to be a significant power sources without either destroying foodcrops or natural ecologicies

Plenty of cropland is already used for biofuel. If we can do so more efficiently, then more area will be available for food and/or nature.

or get more than about 5% efficiency - less than a solar panel.

Comparing biofuels to solar panels in area efficiency is silly. Solar panels cost hundreds of dollars per sq meter. Cropland does not. The important metric is not watts/area but watts/dollar. Also biofuels are liquid and can be used as transportation fuel in affordable vehicles. Solar electricity cannot.

Keeps everyone hopeful, despite the complete silliness.

TFA is completely devoid of any technical information, so I don't think you don't have enough information to determine if her invention is silly or not.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 10 months ago | (#44034659)

Solar panels cost hundreds of dollars per sq meter. Cropland does not

Cropland doesn't generate electricity... And solar-thermal is much cheaper than PV panels, with the "panels" being simple mirrors. And it doesn't need anything as expensive as cropland... desert land is ideal.

Also biofuels are liquid and can be used as transportation fuel in affordable vehicles. Solar electricity cannot.

Yeah, that's something to worry about, once our electrical grid is 100% renewable (and not a moment before).

And you're wrong, anyhow. A plug-in Prius is a fairly inexpensive vehicle. A golf-cart or NEV is quite affordable. And besides, fully-electric vehicles are so much more efficient than internal combustion that we should strive to switch to them as quickly as humanly possible, not work on more strategies to prolong their wildly inefficient use. And if solar power reduces the demand for natural gas, that'll be ready for commercial transportation use, like locomotives (though overhead power lines are vastly better) and tractor-trailers.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034765)

> A plug-in Prius is a fairly inexpensive vehicle

> fully-electric vehicles are so much more efficient than internal combustion

Did you factor in the cost of generating that electricity at the station & pushing it through kilometers of copper before it even gets electricity to those cars?

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 10 months ago | (#44034913)

Did you factor in the cost of generating that electricity at the station & pushing it through kilometers of copper before it even gets electricity to those cars?

Of course. EVs are still incredibly efficient. FAR more than ICEs.

Large power plants are at least twice the efficiency of small ICEs, and may be much better. Grid losses average about 7%, which isn't bad, but could use work.

And finally, hydro, wind, solar, etc., factor into grid power, but don't contribute anything to gasoline engines. EVs will keep getting lower and lower emmissions without owners changing a thing, while conventional vehicles will not.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | about 10 months ago | (#44037969)

Of course. EVs are still incredibly efficient. FAR more than ICEs.

Have you factored in that EVs are coal powered, since you're effectively a marginal consumer of electricity, so that you use the most expensive (which is the most polluting) electricity? And that coal releases far more nasty stuff into the atmosphere than petrol does? Did you know that the radioactive dose released into the atmosphere from coal power (carbon 14) equals one Chernobyl accident per year?

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#44038289)

Did you know that the radioactive dose released into the atmosphere from coal power (carbon 14) equals one Chernobyl accident per year?

I think you meant uranium and thorium. There's no C14 worth mentioning in coal.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (0)

Cramer (69040) | about 10 months ago | (#44035179)

Joule per joule, yes electric motors are much more efficient. However, factoring in capacity and recharge times, EVs are HORRIBLE. My gas car (hybrid / lexus HS, very small batteries) can go 450-500 miles before refueling -- that's 2-3 weeks. It takes 2 minutes to pump 12gal into it. Find me ANY battery powered car that can go even half that, that doesn't take hours to recharge to the point it can do it again. There are plenty of "toy cars" that can run around a city during the day (~100miles) but then it takes 8-12hrs to fully recharge it (i.e. all night to recharge)

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 10 months ago | (#44035763)

You apparently are unaware of the quick chargers. It's still a very long time compared to filling up a gas car, but J1772 chargers are much faster than "8-12 hours to fully charge". You're talking about charging from a regular wall outlet.

I don't have a good time estimate, but the old article http://www.howstuffworks.com/rapid-charging-for-electric-car-batteries.htm [howstuffworks.com]
says "It can take an electric vehicle from dead to nearly full -- about 80 percent charged -- in under half an hour."

You are also unaware .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44036179)

.... that quick charging batteries have a SIGNIFICANTLY lower lifespan.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

Cramer (69040) | about 10 months ago | (#44036389)

30min to 80% is still a horrible joke. Even more so for a car with about 100 mile range. But "range" isn't the issue here. Time to getting that full range back is the real problem. (we used to drive around in cars that had 100-200 mile range, back in the era of heavy steel cars that ran under 10mpg.)

And rapid charging is very bad for batteries. If you rapid charge it to 80%, you cannot get it to 100%. It's a lot like packing a suitcase; you can get more stuff in there if you pack it slow and neat vs. just throwing shit in it and running. If you do it regularly, it tends to damage the battery.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 10 months ago | (#44039615)

The current electric car may not meet everyones needs however I wake up around 6:30AM would consider 60 miles a lot of driving compared to my normal day {30 miles max} and have usually parked the car at home by 7:00PM for the evening. I have a two car family, my wife doesn't drive more than 60 miles a day in her car either. I could easily switch both of us over to electric and just rent a car when we go on that mythical vacation once every decade.

I would have no problem with a 10-12 hour charge time. I have been looking to get an electric car for me but she doesn't want one for her because of range.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 10 months ago | (#44037711)

Find me ANY battery powered car that can go even half that, that doesn't take hours to recharge to the point it can do it again.

Umm, no... Why would I? Why do you feel the need to play dumb?

Right now, plug-in hybrids are the way to go if you must have only a single vehicle. You get a reasonable range on electricity, and it automatically switches over to gas when needed. You get a lower purchase price, while saving substantial money on fuel, and also helping to pay for development of future all-electric cars.

Right now, batteries are too expensive to be a fully viable replacement for combustion. They're getting close enough that they're more economical for some uses. But there's no question that they're improving very, very quickly. It's easy to see that EVs will replace conventional cars in the coming years. The fact that they aren't perfect RIGHT NOW means nothing.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44035235)

And solar-thermal is much cheaper than PV panels, with the "panels" being simple mirrors.

Nope. Proposed solar-thermal projects in both California and Spain have been cancelled and replaced with PV. The price of PV panels has fallen dramatically in recent years.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about 10 months ago | (#44034139)

If supply doesn't go up, demand has to go down.
Let's say 3.5 billion people is more than enough.

To get there, I suggest a product made by the Soylent corporation.

But seriously. Reducing the world population would solve SO many problems.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 10 months ago | (#44034273)

But seriously. Reducing the world population would solve SO many problems.

Well, maybe we could solve the population and fuel problem together? My next science fair project will be turning humans into bio-fuel.

Oh, but all you Slashdot know-it-alls will tell me that it's already been done . . .

I've been discussing this for a while. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034651)

Maybe we can use politicians and lawyers as a renewable fuel source. Anybody who so chooses a career gets 20 years then they get tossed in the vat.

Re:I've been discussing this for a while. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034985)

Maybe we can use politicians and lawyers as a renewable fuel source. Anybody who so chooses a career gets 20 years then they get tossed in the vat.

add people that promote population control as a "right now" solution.

Re:Cute. Too bad it won't scale up... (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 10 months ago | (#44034613)

Chris, she's a kid. I'm happy for her and her proud parents. You fux are like the assholes that jeered the kid from San Antonio for singing the national anthem while wearing a mariachi costum. Wtf.

LOL (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033719)

Evie Sobczak found that the acid in fruit could power clocks

You mean she learned exactly how a battery works? OH SHI-

Re:LOL (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 10 months ago | (#44033775)

I think all that means is she knows more about science than the local-newspaper reporter who wrote TFA.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033793)

So in relative terms: not much at all.

Re:LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033889)

Dude, please, no hating on her independent discovery.

Re:LOL (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034039)

In 5th grade, she figured out something obvious. In 7th grade, she figured out another something obvious. In 8th grade, she started thinking about something non-obvious, spent 4 years developing it and then used it to win an internationally renowned competition sponsored by Intel. The importance of the 5th/7th grade anecdotes is that interest and achievement in science isn't an immediate phenomenon...it has to be cultivated from an early age if you want to see results by high school or college.

Re:LOL (1)

slim (1652) | about 10 months ago | (#44037279)

Shorthand for "she showed interest in basic science at school".... and now she has made an original discovery of her own.

Disclaimer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033849)

(Disclaimer: The above are not actually inventions)

Re:Disclaimer (1)

lxs (131946) | about 10 months ago | (#44037685)

Evie Sobczak found that the acid in fruit could power clocks; she connected a cut-up orange to a clock with wire and watched it tick.

Cue the mocking voice of GLADOS describing about everybody was turning in potato batteries for the fair.

Crap article. (5, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 10 months ago | (#44033859)

And by that, I mean both the Tamba Bay and the Slashdot article. There is nothing anywhere about how she got the biodiesel from algae, which at this point is the only interesting thing about the experiment. It mentions photoautotrophic cultivation, which just means that the algae use light to grow, which is a big no-shit-Sherlock. It mentions osmotic sonication, which is a fancy word for using sound waves and osmotic principles to get the detergent into the cell innards. Google searches turn up no indication of how the experiment was set up, what the actual results or anything of interest. The best thing I got was a list of who else won what other categories at the fair.

So we have two utterly known principles being applied to biodiesel generation from algae, and somehow this makes news as a breakthrough. Yawn.

Which leads me to my second rant: the insistence of news organizations to hail science fair winners as geniuses who solved a problem no one else could (I'm specifically looking at the stories about the kid arranging solar cells in a tree shape). It completely oversells the experiment, turns the kid into something they're not, and covers up the actual interesting item: that you can do cool science in your home that goes beyond baking powder volcanoes. It could even be science that is relevant to an existing topic of interest to actual scientists, which should put the kids on a good trajectory to actually solving the problem. But no, instead we are presented with kid geniuses who solve world hunger, and I get to fend off all kinds of dumb questions and comments about science, the state of technology and why we're not listening more to kids.

Now get off my lawn.

I had the same reaction (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 10 months ago | (#44033965)

was disappointed when I couldn't find out anything about what she actually did that was interesting other than recreate existing processes

Re:Crap article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034075)

So we have two utterly known principles being applied to biodiesel generation from algae, and somehow this makes news as a breakthrough.

Especially considering that others are already far ahead [bloomberg.com] when it comes to algae-based fuel.

Re:Crap article. (1)

RichMan (8097) | about 10 months ago | (#44034091)

I am still waiting for the wifi kills seeds follow up. Seems like that should have taken about 3 days for a proper lab to replicate. Heck every 4th grader in america (and their parents) should be working on replicating it. (Think of the lawsuits possible)
.

Re:Crap article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034345)

It's because the reporters don't understand what they're reporting on, so they cut and paste a bunch of crap that sounds "sciency" and call it a day.

Re:Crap article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034755)

Yes, crap article. No science explained.. really. But now, I'm going to make it political.

Crap articles like this show average kids as super geniuses and twitter breakthroughs for science magazines. That is just what folks like Mrs. Obama wants. She and the administration is more interested in kids, "the Facebook" (chuckle), crafting their attitudes and... their future votes. They are truly interested in making their lives better... by using hype.

As for the rest of us, they are putting in programs to take care of us as is--no incentive for us to improve our existing conditions, just make it less painful. That's ok, but it makes me feel like they've given up of the X & even the Y gens. Given up I say....

Re:Crap article. (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 10 months ago | (#44035581)

that you can do cool science in your home that goes beyond baking powder volcanoes.

Surely you mean baking soda volcanoes, right?

I originally meant this as a joke, but baking powder is apparently just a superset of baking soda... but to get the volcano to erupt on Marcia at just the right time, you need to have separate vinegar & baking soda... right?

comment saved my time (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 10 months ago | (#44035831)

When the only comment scored 5 claims the article is crap. I guess we can trust the wisdom of crowd and skip the paper.

Re:Crap article. (2)

fermion (181285) | about 10 months ago | (#44036583)

As in any science, the interesting thing is the process and data collected, not the end result. A young person is not generally going to post-graduate level work and actually create new knowledge. Unfortunately the press, which only understands endpoint and not the work it took to get there, is just rah rah rah around interesting people.

In fact such transformation from algae to various energy products has been. Four years ago Dow partnered to do exactly this, and a year later it broke up the partnership.

In fact producing a gallon of fuel from algae requires huge amount of resources, both water and nutrients. Of course I have not RTFA so I don't know if the innovation was the reduction in the use of fresh water, which in most of the US is very scarce, or the use of nutrients, which in the US are increasingly imported.

Possibly the best research path is efficiently converting weeds such as switchgrass into ethanol. Right now it is possible to increase yields fourfold. In fact moving away from a corn economy to more of a grass economy may solve many of our problems. This is not to say that algae has no benefit. Algae grown in saltwater, which is plentiful, can be good protein source,and is much less destructive than meat production, or even soybean production. But this is going to have to wait until the environment is degraded enough to make the other options not viable.

Re:Crap article. (1)

slim (1652) | about 10 months ago | (#44037473)

Presumably if you burned the product locally, you could recover almost all of the water and nutrients. Water is obviously necessary to provide the hydrogen in hydrocarbons, but you get water back when you burn it in oxygen. Solid macronutrients like potassium and phosphorous don't go anywhere; they're in the ash/residue/smoke.

Re:Crap article. (2)

Kagato (116051) | about 10 months ago | (#44039125)

I googled for her paper on the project. http://algaetooil.weebly.com/ [weebly.com]

    It's actually quite promising and her experiments are specifically geared at finding economical processes that scale. The first section of her experiments deal with increasing yields of the algae. Both in terms of the mass and the lipids that would convert to fuel. Basically she found that you could use Neon gas to filter natural light and controlling CO2 at various stages get a 20% bump over natural light.

The next steps were to find alternative methods of extracting the lipids from the algae without the use of toxic chemicals. She used several processes at various points to archive this. All of which had a heavy focus on economic viability.

The only concern I have about this is what happens to a freshman in college who thinks they can just run any old experiments they want in the lab. That's the biggest barrier to this research continuing.

wood === biofuel (2)

RichMan (8097) | about 10 months ago | (#44033883)

Wood is a form of biofuel.
See what I did there?

Does "biofuel" still seem like a mysterious magical term.

Re:wood === biofuel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033969)

What about farts? Do they count as biofuel or fossil fuel? Applying mass media-level science comprehension, I could see it go either way.

Re:wood === biofuel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44033979)

Only those ejected from an anus. Pussy farts, no.

Re:wood === biofuel (2)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#44034357)

Not exactly, biofuel refers mostly to gas or gasoil replacements. Except some very large diesel engines, which you can fuel with sawdust, it's not very easy to power a gas or gasoil engine with wood.

Re:wood === biofuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034679)

It is very easy to power a gas engine with wood:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_gas_generator

Re:wood === biofuel (1)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#44034857)

Then you don't power the gas engine with wood, but with wood gas. And yes, you can turn wood into biofuel. But that doesn't make wood itself a biofuel.

Re:wood === biofuel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44035817)

And by your [idiot] logic, wheat is not a food, unless it's converted into a loaf of bread.

Re:wood === biofuel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44035963)

By your idiot logic, cars are powered by dinosaurs. Go away.

Re:wood === biofuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44037347)

You mean plant matter, or really old wood? WTF is your problem?

Re:wood === biofuel (1)

Molochi (555357) | about 10 months ago | (#44037331)

Well "wood gas" is the product of heated wood typicaly piped directly to the engine. The wood merely stores the fuel (methane) in a stable medium. You might consider the methane product the actual fuel, but the "tank" is filled with wood.

Re:wood === biofuel (1)

Molochi (555357) | about 10 months ago | (#44037283)

An AC posted this first but wood gas was (widely during WW2) and still is easily substituted for gasoline (with a severe loss of HP). It's a good part of any zombie apocalypse survival plan, but not a good part of a save the planet plan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_gas [wikipedia.org]

Re:wood === biofuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034395)

One "=" is plenty — the others just make you seem like a lunatic. The same goes for you people with the multiple punctuation marks.

Re:wood === biofuel (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 10 months ago | (#44036019)

This is slashdot, and even now, by 2013, it's not too much to expect that the average person around here knows what a C-like language looks like.

That said, 3 equal symbols will make you look like a Javascript programer faster than you can point to any less widespread reference, like Prolog. And even now, with all the buzz around it, that's not a good image to have.

Re:wood === biofuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44037365)

No one needs > ==

Re:wood === biofuel (1)

voidphoenix (710468) | about 10 months ago | (#44037789)

It's a JavaScript comparison operator for strict equality, which tests both value and type. JS is dynamically typed, so 3 == '3' evaluates to true, but 3 === '3' is false. The inequality analogues are != and !==.

Re:wood === biofuel (1)

slim (1652) | about 10 months ago | (#44037477)

Who said it was mysterious or magical? Everyone knows wood is a biofuel.

How does that devalue biofuels, or take away from the achievement of creating more useful and efficient burnable crops?

Evie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034063)

"Evie?" What is that, one them newfangled California names?

Yep something else (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034175)

Thorium.
Will negate the need for bio based fuel sources, if half of the hype is true.
China is building 2 reactors now.
Oak ridge had one back in the 60s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9M__yYbsZ4

Re:Yep something else (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44037409)

I was always a supporter of good old fashioned fission based on the premise that we could just dump the waste into folds being absorbed back into the earth's crust. Why the fuck are we storing the waste in New Jersey?

Another story (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 10 months ago | (#44034331)

Some weeks ago there was a story in /. about students who discovered that there might be something going or nearby WiFi hotspots that impact the growth of cress. What is the status of that project today? Have they conducted additional experiments?

Kid win science fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034469)

More at 11.

Acid in fruit does not power anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44034479)

The power comes from the dissimilar metals that is plugged into the fruit. The energy comes from thevrefined metals, for examaple iron and copper. Electrons leave the iron are transported through wire to the load. The fruit is a carrier not a source of energy.

No shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44035561)

what the fuck, did someone give her an old Mr Wizard book? Grat's you did every basic lame ass science fair exhibit in the book here is your ribbon, dont let it go to your head

Obvious pun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44035803)

Doesn't even need to be said.

First pUost (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44035903)

The goodwill Paranoid conspiracy OpenBSD. How many of an admitted7y tossers, went out TO THE POLITICAALY they're gone Came a fact: FreeBSD

and i can run my car on charcoal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44037251)

things like this usual turn out to use of resources costing 5X more than the conventional energy it replaces and is more of a pollutant waste problem

its like electric cars whose construction creates more carbon than the lifetime of a conventional car (ontop of getting its power from a fossil fuel plant in the first place)

Well, the 5th grade project symmary is crapola (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44037519)

"For a fifth-grade science fair, Evie Sobczak found that the acid in fruit could power clocks; she connected a cut-up orange to a clock with wire and watched it tick."

You get those novelty clocks via mail order. But the "acid in fruit" is not what powers the clock: you have two electrodes of different material, and the less pure electrode dissolves via normal electrolysis and powers the reaction. The orange just provides an electrolyte that is not powering the clock. And it would not dissolve the less pure electrode without the wiring, so the reaction is not autonomous. The orange is not powering it, it is just a ion trap.

You don't need acid, you can use salt water or vinegar or a number of other electrolytes.

Given the overall low quality of the article, it is not certain whether they are just misrepresenting her. But science is not just about making something happen, but also about finding cause and effect. In particular if one claims a particular cause.

Thread Recap (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 10 months ago | (#44037729)

100 fat stupid big-mouth know-it-all towering assholes criticize working invention in a nasal smartass tone of voice while ramming another mom-prepared hot pocket into their distended fat neckbeard-encrusted sneering faces.

The only thing that makes threads like this tolerable is the certain knowledge that nobody will ever take any of you seriously about anything.

PETA no like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44037927)

PETA is going to get her for killing all those creatures

Genius! (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 10 months ago | (#44038557)

What, can she (or her parents) actually read or something? Amazing! Seriously, nothing revolutionary here, all of these were invented by someone else.

"I call it a Wind-mill!"
"I call it biome-diesel"

next:

"I call it a photo-panel!"

Vapid reporting (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 10 months ago | (#44039485)

There is nothing "invented" here. Its not like she woke up and thought that algae could be used to make fuel.

Companies have been researching this for decades, and the issue comes back down to the effort to grow algae often consumer more energy then what they produce. The real challenge is not that algae can product hydrocarbons for fuel, its about how to do it at the same or better efficiency then getting oil out of the ground.

Its a nice puff piece, but ignorant "science" reporters think this kid is brilliant and did something nobody though of before, all she did was read about it and created a diorama or something. Using acid in fruit could power clocks, done. Wind power, done. Growing algae for bio-fuel, done.

That kids a phony!

But I can't really blame her; what is worse is when adults are amazed at her "inventions".

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