Using Algae for Industrial Carbon Capture, Food, Fuel and Plastic
In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Honda is experimenting with the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii class of algae they have nicknamed “Dreamo”, which can eat twice its weight in carbon dioxide in three to five days, depending on the time of year. Developers are growing Dreamo on the roof of a car factory in Tochigi, Japan, where it can absorb CO2 emissions from manufacturing. It has been genetically modified to grow hardier and five times faster than ordinary microalgae, allowing the growth solution to last months instead of weeks.
The development team is also exploring additional uses for Dreamo. After serving its pollution-fighting role, the algae can be harvested, dried and turned into food, fuel or plastic. Depending upon the amount of nitrogen applied to the algae, its cellular composition can be modified to be either predominantly carbohydrate- or protein-based. When the algae is mostly protein, an enzyme can be added to easily extract the starch to be used as food or as a raw material in animal food, cosmetics or pharmaceuticals. When the algae is mostly carbohydrate, it can be extracted as glucose and ethanol to be converted into plastic resin or jet fuel.