The ocean is a beautiful yet a mesmerizing place for the human race, with a lot of new wonders that are waiting to be discovered.
It can also be a very important source of energy for our world, and a new Startup called Marine BioEnergy has started a new research that can help to find one that could benefit all of us, but do you think that a robotic kelp farm could be an alternative for cars or even planes? They do.
This new prototype, is supposed to be an elevator for kelp, which can move up and down in the water to access sunlight and nutrients. Tests are schedule to begin very soon and if everything goes as planned, the researchers say that the farming will begin quickly in the open ocean between Hawaii and California.
After that, the plan is to harvest the kelp and then convert it into an ingenious type of biofuel that could be an excellent replacement for traditional fuels derived from crude oil, all of this would be possible thanks to the help of brand-new technology driven by robotic submarines.
Marine BioEnergy is also working with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, they are developing this new way to transform kelp into biocrude. This new type of fuel is carbon neutral, that is because the kelp can absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide as would be emitted by traditional fuels when they are burned.
Cyndy and Brian Wilcox, are the couple behind this revolutionary project that can change the oil industry as we know it. They have great hopes that they can grow enough seaweed to be able to make a name by themselves in the fuel market.
Brian has actually worked with space robotics technology in the past with NASA, more specifically at his job in Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology.
He cofounded Marine BioEnergy with his wife who says that Brian had thought about this idea for a very long time: “My husband just kept thinking about this–here’s the right feedstock, and we just aren’t using it”
Diane Kim has been working with Brian and Cyndy, and says that the most difficult part of this project was to grow kelp in the open ocean, since the normal range of where it could be found is along the coast and it needs sunlight found near the surface of the water and nutrients that are found near the ocean floor (it also needs to anchor itself to something).
Marine BioEnergy wants this project to be enormous and they think that it could actually cover 10% of the transportation fuel need in the United States, although this would mean that they need to have enough kelp farms to cover an area of the ocean approximately the same size of the state of Utah.
Nonetheless, many people still disagree with the use of biofuels like this, since it sill requires combustion, this was said by Mark Jacobson, who works as a professor for Stanford University. He says that it’s likely to get all energy needs from wind or solar lights, stating that a car running on renewable electricity hurt our environment less than a car running on biofuel.
However, airplanes are unlikely to run on electricity anytime soon, since there aren’t still new models that can operate like that, so the thought or using biofuel on a jet in a near future doesn’t sound that weird.
Furthermore, this new kelp biocrude could be processed at existing refineries and be used to make different types of plastics, since these are normally made from fossil fuels.