Saturday, February 20, 2016

Earth’s Application to Renewable and Green Energy

In the midst of obvious climate change; up-rise in seismic activity, global population reaching unmanageable numbers, and mass animal extinction, it is pretty evident that our world is changing. As humans we have either adapted or died. One of the more pressing issues concerning these matters is that of energy. For hundreds of years humans have used nonrenewable energy in the form of burning organic carbon. Like the earth, we are approaching a time of change in the ways we harvest energy. Ways that are less damaging to the environment and more conservative in production.

A remedy to the Earth’s migraines can be biological organisms from the Earth itself. Several viable options as a source of renewable energy include algal harvestations in the production of biofuel, lignocellulose in the production of second generation biofuels, bioelectrochemical systems (BES) which can convert organic waste into energy with microbial fuel cells (MFCs) or microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), and harnessing energy from the natural constant motion of oceanic currents. All of these options as well as numerous others have great potential to positively impact our world.

Unfortunately with the continued drop of oil costs, it is difficult for countries with the technologies to look into these possible solutions to allocate funds for that purpose.  Soon we will run out of fossil fuels and need to adapt and rely on more ecofriendly renewable resources or die from a lack of energy to sustain our comfortable lifestyles.

Microalgae have been shown to be converted directly to useable energy in the form of biofuel. Because of their many advantages as a sustainable feed stock for biodiesel production and their lack of competition with food crops, microalgae are a potential source to produce third generation biodiesel (Ahmad, 2011). They are very promising as a sustainable contribution toward reducing climate change; however their production needs more research to identify the most suitable microalgae species and improve their oil yield, more specifically on the biosynthesis of algal lipids, triglycerides, and fatty acids. Furthermore recent studies have found that microorganisms in the production of biofuel show a better yield on solid state fermentation of lignocellulosic biomass using the enzyme cellulose and celluloytic microorganisms to depolymerize cellulose into fermentable sugars (Sudhanshu, 2015).
Figure 1.1 Cycle of Algal Energy

BESs are naturally occurring systems within MFCs and MECs with the capability to convert chemical energy from organic waste in the form of wastewater and lignocellulosic biomass into useable electricity. Although on a micro scale, in large quantities useable energy can be harvested. Alluring benefits of BESs include operating in mild conditions, no need for precious metal catalysts, and the ability to use a wide range of organic substrate (Pant, 2011). Research is still needed to achieve useful production of energy but from current data wastewater treatment seems to be the most realistic approach (Wang, 2015). It would not only assist in the purification of the water but the production of useable energy as well. 

Figure 1.2 Model of Microbial Fuel Cells
The oceans hold vast amounts of potential energy in the form of their constant movement of waves and tides. Prospective models of implemented harnessing techniques have already been constructed as well as forecasted energy potentials for many regions of the world (Uihlein, 2015). Unfortunately issues such as conflict with competing use of the marine environment such as fishing, shipping, offshore wind, habitat protection, and grid connection has limited the progress of these technologies. The next step in the realization of these technologies is research into the economic and social impacts of oceanic energy. Broad coast analysis’ including grid integration, energy security, and predictions of future costs in maintenance and operation are still necessary for any forward progress. The ocean energy industry has made significant progress in recent years but is still at very early stage with some advanced prototypes that are currently being tested.

Figure 1.3 Wave Turbines
The burning of fossil fuels have caused evident damage to our earth in the forms of global warming, habitat depletion, and lowered air quality. Perhaps some of this damage can be mended and possibly reversed with natural energy sources already present on Earth such that don't emit harmful gasses or contaminants.

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