NSF grant awarded for home-scale algae power generation research

By Georgia Institute of Technology | January 11, 2013

The National Science Foundation Sustainable Energy Pathways Program has awarded a $1.6 million dollar grant to a team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Architecture and Ohio University.  The multi-disciplinary group will be studying the viability and optimization of algae-based biofuel systems to meet the energy needs of homes and communities.  Daniel Castro, associate professor and chair in the Georgia Tech School of Building Construction and a lead investigator on the project said “Our interdisciplinary approach addresses a significant need for sustainable energy systems that integrate waste stream management with renewable power generation; the sustainability of this concept will be applied first to a single-family residence, and then scaled to investigate the potential for implementation at the community scale.”

The Georgia Tech team, led by Castro, includes Perry Yang and Charles Rudolph from the College of Architecture.  The team will focus on the design, construction, and evaluation of residential buildings using the algae-based technology for energy.  Rudolph will conduct undergraduate and graduate architectural studios on community design and adaptive reuse, engaging community groups and design centers in the re-envisioning of homes and residential communities. Yang will use GIS technology to find the best environmental condition scenario in urban, suburban and rural settings for this alternative fuel.  Castro will focus on integrating closed-loop waste stream management and energy generation systems into households, considering aspects of constructability, material procurement, operation and safety.  The Ohio University team, led by Ben Stuart, will test and design the algae-based power system being integrated into the residential construction, and assess economic viability and potential risk evaluations.

This project builds off of previous NSF funded research between Georgia Tech and Ohio University focusing on ammonia based fuel cells as an energy source for homes. Castro, also the lead investigator from Georgia Tech, commented “Results of that work provided the fundamental information required for the design, construction, optimization, and scale-up an ammonia electrolytic cell able to contribute to the energy requirements of residential structures; now we will focus on the vision for sustainable living, thereby incorporating all major resource needs and waste management considerations.”