Floating Drone Harvests Algae for Fuel
The design calls for hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered pumps that would mow down algae clogging waterways and poisoning marine life.
Excess algae, prepare to meet your maker. A remote-controlled floating drone could cut a swath through algae-clogged water, turning the overgrowth into biofuel.
The drone concept comes from Swedish industrial design student Fredrik Ausinsch, who envisions a clean way to remove excess algae in the Baltic Sea. Abnormally frequent and large algal blooms there produce toxins that kill marine animals.
As part of his masters project he proposed an algae sea collector that could dramatically improve marine life, the site Tuvie reported.
The design calls for hydrogen fuel cell technology with two electric-driven pumps, one on each side, which would make the vessel quiet, Ausinsch explained on his project page.
Moving along the water surface, an internal system separates the biomass from the water. The water helps with thrust while the heat emitted from the hydrogen fuel cell tech dries the algae out.
"The concept works similar to a lawn mower so the algae shouldn't drift behind the machine," he wrote. "It's operated from an external cockpit located in a service boat nearby." Adjustable hydrodynamic wings would allow for collection down to 1.5 meters.
No stranger to sleek machines, Ausinsch designed a conceptual autonomous timber harvesting hovercraft last year that could target trees without damaging the forest floor.
His passion for vehicles started early: He recounted designing a two-seat pedal car as a child that his father helped him build out of wood.
Ausinsch's Algae Sea Harvester renderings are gorgeous, and I love that he's thinking about creative ways to deal with a deadly algae problem. After all, the stuff grows fast without fresh water.
But algae biofuel production still faces tall hurdles, including how to scale it up affordably and efficiently.
Fortunately the design is flexible enough so that the collected and dried algae could be used for other things besides fuel, like fertilizer, dyes, healthcare products or cosmetics.
All of those sound better than poisoned fish. Let's build a prototype drone and turn this particular "eww!" into a "woo!"
The month of June honors both National Ocean Month and World Ocean Day (June 8). What better time, then, to check out photos of undersea life and be reminded that things "down there" are just as important as things up here on land. Here, a manatee goes about its day. The manatee, also known as a "seacow," is an air-breathing herbivore listed as a federally endangered species. Manatees are slow moving and can't swim quickly away from boats. This often results in collisions that can kill or injure them.
Life's a beach. Mom and her baby elephant seal roll around in the sand in Ano Nuevo Island, Calif.
A humpback whale breaches in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of California.
A blue rockfish fans for the camera in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, in California.
A Southern sea otter, aka,
Enhydra lutris nereis
, wonders what all the fuss is about, at South Harbor, Moss Landing, Calif. The World Ocean Day Photo Contest entrant was Submitted by Dr. Steve Lonhart.
A white-lobed sponge brightens up the scenery. It's one of several images of rarely seen deep-sea animals that were captured on camera in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary during a NOAA expedition. Researchers used a NOAA remotely operated vehicle in waters 328 to 656 feet deep off the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The research was funded by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.
This image brimming with colorful marine life is from the Pearl and Hermes Atoll. It's a huge oval coral reef within several internal reefs and is the second largest among the six atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Having no backbone isn't always a bad thing! Just ask any octopus. These boneless invertebrates know how to squeeze into (and out of) many a tight spot. They have three hearts, nine brains and blue blood. (Two hearts send blood to the gills, while the third pumper sends it to the rest of the body.)
Rapture Reef sits within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. The monument encompasses more than 140,000 square miles of ocean and coral reef habitat.
A sea turtle swims off of the Hawaiian islands.
This seal is eager to wriggle its way back to freedom, as divers release it from fishing nets. Marine debris -- such as these nets -- makes a serious impact on its surroundings. From being an eyesore on a beach to injuring marine life or stopping a 400-ton vessel at sea, it causes problems that are difficult to ignore.
Grey matter artwork? Nope! It's a sharknose goby (
) propped up on brain coral in the U.S. Virgin Islands.