Harmful Algal for Energy Storage

While we typically work to preserve the environment, there are some aspects that cause more harm than good. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are one of these environmentally hazardous parts of nature, severely impacting human health, the ecosystem, and the economy.

While HABs put countless people at risk though polluted drinking water, researchers are now attempting to create some good from this negative. Through heating the algal at a very high temperature in argon gas, HABs can be converted into a material known as hard carbon. Typically made from petroleum, hard carbon also has development potential through biomass. Due to the material’s qualities and capabilities, hard carbons have the potential to be used as high-capacity, low-cost electrodes for sodium-ion batteries.

“Harmful algal blooms, caused by cyanobacteria (or so called ‘blue-green algae’), severely threaten humans, livestock, and wildlife, leading to illness and sometimes even death,” says Da Deng, co-author of the recent study. “The Toledo water crisis in 2014 caused by HABs in Lake Erie is a vivid example of their powerful and destructive impact. The existing technologies to mitigate HABs are considered a ‘passive’ technology and have certain limitations. It would significantly and broadly impact our society and environment if alternative technologies could be developed to convert the HABs into functional high-value products.”


Top 5 Less Recognized Renwable Energy Sources

When we think of renewable energy, our minds typically tend toward solar and wind power. However, there are other promising energy sources that commonly fly under the radar. The Guardian recently highlighted five alternative energy sources that have the potential to see great growth in upcoming years and transform the energy landscape as we know it.

Ocean Power
With ocean waters covering more than 70 percent of our plants surface, it only makes sense to harness the energy it naturally produces. Ocean current and waves could be used to drive electric generators and produce an abundant amount of consistent energy. Typically, ocean energy is broken down into four categories: deep water source cooling, tidal power, wave power, and marine current.

The catch? Salt water causes corrosion, which raises an issue when developing a device to capture this energy. The biggest roadblock engineers are currently facing is how to develop an energy harnessing device that makes ocean power commercially viable. With the right scale of development, this from of energy could be at the forefront of a renewable future.

Essentially, biomass transforms living things or the waste they produce into electricity. Currently, biomass accounts for 12 percent of the country’s renewable energy generation. While burning the fuel produces CO2, proponents of this source believe it will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to the growth of plants that produce the energy, which remove the CO2 from the atmosphere.


New Development in Biomass and Solar Energy

The results from this research show promise in the area of solar and biomass energy conversion.Image: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

The results from this research show promise in the area of solar and biomass energy conversion.
Image: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

Two researchers are thinking outside of traditional research standards to develop a new approach to solar energy and biomass conversion.

Kyoung-Shin Choi, a professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his postdoctoral researcher Hyun Gil Cha are looking for a whole new way to harness natural energy, and their technique is showing promise for future endeavors.