Carbon dioxide, often criticized, however, can become a useful resource. Indeed, different strategies used to exploit the CO2 produced by fossil fuels are to the study.
Thus, the laboratory Brindisi ENEL Ricerca is in the process of studying the possibility of using carbon dioxide to accelerate the development of micro-algae which absorbs in the chlorophyll photosynthesis. These microalgae same can then be used to extract valuable chemical compounds or to obtain fuel.
Gennaro De Michele, the project leader, explains: »In our laboratory, we are experimenting with the possibility of producing micro-algae cultures in an enriched growth environment, with a carbon dioxide level equal to that present in the factories' fumes. It would therefore be possible to feed the basins where the plants are grown directly with the discharges of the plants. De Michele says: "We are currently working with the seaweed Phaeodactylum tricornutum, which has
very interesting properties. From this plant are extracted indeed several polyunsaturated fatty acids valuable for our organism, belonging to the Omega 3 family. In addition, it would be possible to extract biodiesel from this algae.
The idea to use the carbon dioxide to useful microalgae culture is also followed in other countries of the world: the United States for example, microalgae cultures enriched in carbon dioxide environment already exist , and such applications are also presented in Brazil and India.
"We are still in an experimental phase - explains De Michele. However, today in the laboratory, in the presence of high concentrations of carbon dioxide, our micro-algae grow up to 3 times faster. "
However, this path is not a comprehensive solution to the problem of carbon dioxide. De Michele explains: "This is an extremely complex challenge, in which we must act with different parameters: firstly, the efficiency of the installations, the use of renewable energies and finally, the storage and use carbon dioxide.
The latter is very interesting and can lead to the production of valuable chemical compounds, such as polycarbonates for example; to produce renewable energy in the form of biomass; or to produce rocks in which carbon dioxide would be permanently fixed. Microalgae cultivation is one of these routes, but even though it was used for biodiesel production, it would only absorb a small part of the overall CO2 production. "
source: The sun 24 hours, 11 / 11 / 2004