March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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INNOVATIVE ALGAE-ASSISTED CARBON CAPTURE TECHNOLOGY

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TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

THE CONTEXT: Researchers at IIT Jodhpur have developed a groundbreaking method that combines algae-assisted microbial fuel cells to capture carbon dioxide, treat wastewater, and generate power simultaneously.

EXPLANATION:

  • This technology represents a promising alternative to traditional carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) methods, offering multiple benefits in environmental remediation and energy production.

ALGAE-ASSISTED CARBON CAPTURE PROCESS

  • Absorption of CO2 from Flue Gas
    • The process initiates by cooling the flue gas from thermal power stations and industrial plants using a heat exchanger.
    • The cooled flue gas is then directed to a sieve-plate absorption column, where sodium carbonate supplemented wastewater absorbs CO2, producing flue-gas-derived bicarbonates (FGDBs).
  • Utilization in Algae-Assisted Microbial Fuel Cells (MFC)
    • FGDBs are utilized in plastic bag photobioreactors (PBRs) combined with algae-assisted microbial fuel cells.
    • This novel integration facilitates biochemical CO2 sequestration while simultaneously generating power and promoting algae biomass growth.

ADVANTAGES OVER CONVENTIONAL METHODS

  • Efficiency of CO2 Fixation
    • Compared to the conventional method of bubbling flue gases into algal ponds, the indirect biochemical route adopted by IIT Jodhpur proves more efficient.
    • It converts CO2 into carbonates, enhancing the solubility of inorganic carbon in water, thereby fostering increased carbon retention in the water.
  • Closed Systems and Wastewater Usage
    • The use of closed systems like PBRs is highlighted as preferable to open ponds, as they prevent decomposition of bicarbonates into CO2 and maintain pH levels.
    • Additionally, the technology utilizes wastewater, utilizing a thermo-tolerant algal strain (Chlorella vulgaris) capable of thriving in such conditions.

POWER GENERATION AND SCALING CHALLENGES

  • Algae in Microbial Fuel Cells
    • The integration of algae into microbial fuel cells generates electricity.
    • This bio-electrochemical process harnesses the metabolic activity of microorganisms breaking down organic matter in wastewater, releasing electrons that produce electric current.
  • Scalability and Limitations
    • While theoretically, all available flue gas can be used to grow algae, scalability presents challenges.
    • A tonne per day of CO2 capture demands a substantial algae culture area, limiting the practical scale of operation.
    • Moreover, only a small fraction of algae is used for power generation, leaving the majority available for bioenergy purposes.

FUTURE PROSPECTS AND DEVELOPMENT

  • Further Refinement and Research
    • Technology requires refinement and further research.
    • Developmental avenues include enhancing microbial consortia or genetically engineered strains, comprehensive mass balance studies, determination of feed flow rates, and retention times for efficient CO2 capture.
  • Device Optimization
    • Enhancements to the device itself could involve integrating specialized gas diffusing devices (spargers) for a stable gas supply, ensuring sustained algal growth.

CONCLUSION

  • IIT Jodhpur’s innovative algae-assisted microbial fuel cell technology showcases a promising approach to address multiple environmental challenges simultaneously.
  • While requiring further development and refinement, its potential to capture CO2, treat wastewater, and generate power represents a significant step towards sustainable and efficient energy solutions.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/business-tech/carbon-capture-by-algae-assisted-microbial-fuel-cell-shows-promise/article67624539.ece

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