Best Use of Dirty Pool Water to Save Humanity (2012)

ASU's Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology

Arizona has more pools per capita than anywhere in America. Given our weather, that's not really a shocker. What might be shocking is that some of the stuff that grows in your pool if you don't clean it might actually end up saving humanity.

The Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology at ASU is conducting a whole raft of research centered on humble algae, the green crud that gathers in old pools and lakes. Some of the most exciting research is with algae-based biofuels. Current biofuels rely upon converting crops, primarily food crops like corn, into biofuels that we can use in our cars. While this has seen some success, there are real ethical problems with using food for fuel, as well as questions as to whether it actually is sustainable enough to justify biofuel production. That's where the algae comes in. Algae neatly steps around the ethical and practical problems surrounding biofuels. For obvious reasons, nobody is going to complain if a vast algae harvest is used to make fuel, nor do we have to sacrifice wide swaths of farmland just to make it. Researchers at ASU can grow a lot of algae in a very small area, and all they need is water, sunlight and some basic nutrients. The algae themselves produce oils which can be harvested and then refined into biofuel. Harvesting a "crop" of biofuels is as easy as emptying out their tank and giving it a good scrub.


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