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Circular System for Solar Energy Capturing "



Motivation

Recent decades, the issue of Global Warming and Energy safety had
come up for animated discussion. Many environment-related
protocols and energy projects were conducted. In the environment
side, burning of fossil fuels, especially coals, discharged bulk of carbon
dioxide and nitrogen, sulfur oxides, particulate matter containing
exhaust. In addition, the particulate matters (PM), which is well
discussed recently, had led to many heart and lung related diseases. In
the cases of energy safety, there were many nuclear power plant and
radioactive substances concerned accidents, including the recent one
caused by tsunami in 2011, Japan.

The nuclear power plant needs more land to ensure the safety of
people, and is inappropriate to some land-less countries, like Taiwan.
Though nuclear power is almost zero carbon emitted (Figure1.), the
cost of any accident is incalculable to a society. Due to this, we would
like to design a set-up that can combine the thermal power plant to
achieve both energy safety and environmental protection.


Figure 1. The greenhouse gas
emissions by each power plant.
Nuclear power plants are also
greenhouse gas produced, but far
less than thermal ways. (World
Nuclear Association, 9 Dec 2015)

Introduction

When it comes to stability of electricity supplication, it should be


discussed between baseload and floating electricity. (Figure2.)
Baseload electricity is the stable electricity demand for the society, in
other words, it should remain almost a constant; however, floating
electricity can further be separated into intermediate and fast peak
demand, which may fluctuate with the time, e.g. day and night,
summer and winter.

Figure 2. The structure of
electricity from power plant.
Baseload is the lowest electricity
demand to the time, which need
the cheapest and most stable
ways to construct; while floating
electricity fluctuate with the peak
demand of people, and have the characteristic of higher cost and being more flexible. (David
Mills, ABC Science, Dec 2010)

Back to the problems, floating electricity are commonly constructed


by renewable energy and cleaner fuels, like natural gas, which have
higher cost per electro yield. However, baseload electricity can be
supplied only by two ways nowadays: fossil fuels and nuclear power,
though we can convert renewable energy to baseload electricity by
electricity storing technology (the cost is too expensive). The thermal
power plant, especially coal-fired, would emit carbon dioxide (CO2),
which is believed to lead to global warming, and nitrogen, sulfur oxides,
particulate matter containing exhaust. Nuclear power, more precisely
is nuclear fission reaction, would produce many radioactive waste that
cannot be treated until now and some scourge may lead to serious
radio-crisis.

Because of the land area of some countries, its difficult to evacuate


people when the scourge coming just in case and the surrounding land
would be leaved uncultivated for decades. Thermal power plant may
be a proper way to supply electricity, except increasing the efficiency
of each thermal power plants, we should overcome bulk of
greenhouse gas and toxins emitted from fossil fuels' combustion.
Ongoing solution to sink the carbon dioxides is collecting them and
inject into stratum no matter under land surface or sea. (Figure3.)
However, the solution called carbon capture and storage (CCS) have
several disadvantages: First, to pressurize those gases need extra
energy that would decrease the efficiency of power plants. Second, its
dangerous if those gases leak resulting from geological activities,
earthquake for example. Third, it against one of the rules in
sustainable development, to circulate the substance for producing
stuff. Here, I propose a system to collect the exhaust emitted from

thermal power plant and show some possibility.



Figure3. Carbon dioxide
Capture and Storage.
The pressurized gases
(carbon dioxide) can be
injected into stratum for
storage or to help the
petroleum mining. (IPCC
Special Report 2005.09)

Idea Design

Plant, as one of the most important primary producers on the Earth,


can solely rely on solar energy, air (O2, CO2) and water to survive
(nitrogen and phosphorus included actually). Carbon dioxide can be
fixed to sugar and other bio-blocks in this process, so called
photosynthesis. Later on, by food chain, the carbon would be exhaled
back to atmosphere through respiration reaction.

Surprisingly, there are a group of microbes called microalgae,


especially green algae, which can work like plants and act like bacteria.
They are able to fix carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and also
by the bio-synthesis pathways to make many kinds of nutrients,
vitamins, pigments that are trace but essential in higher level
organisms. Many studies have focused on their multiple 'magic'
functions in different microalgae that I'll discuss later. Last but not
least, the single cell characteristic is easy to scale-up and process in

industry.

Figure 4. The interaction between chloroplast and mitochondria in a plant cell. Chloroplasts
can convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose by solar energy; mitochondrion utilize
glucose to generate ATP (the energy currency in cells) for some cellular biochemical pathways.
In addition, in animal cells, they can only conduct respiration reaction, like how we burn fossil
fuels to generate electricity nowadays.

In a plant cell, we can recognize it as a mini society. (Figure4.) Chloroplasts act


as a farm land to yield grains (e.g. glucose); while mitochondrion generate the
electricity (ATP and NADH) for cell's activities. (Figure5.) The input of this system
are solar energy, CO2 and water; and output are energy (ATP) and oxygen. So
here, we propose an algal cultural system that can combine to the ongoing
thermal power plant to digest those exhaust. (Figure6.) The biomass of algae
cells can be further processed to edible food and their metabolites (e.g. methane,
lipids, hydrogen) may be used as
fuels to thermal power plant.

Figure 5. Simplified flow chart from
figure 4. (Jessica Harwood, Douglas
Wilkin, 2012. Connecting cellular
respiration and photosynthesis)

Figure 6. The simplified energy and substances flow of proposed system. Red rectangle
shows the traditional thermal power plant; while, green one indicates the algal cultural unit
in this system. Thermal power plant produce electricity, exhaust and carbon dioxide from
fuels' combustion.

Feasibility and some Potentials


The land size and stability of algal cultivation should be considered first. The
retention time of each algal cell, converting efficiency under different conditions
(e.g. temperature, light intensity) and the quantity of exhaust would decide what
volume of cultivation we should pick. Many thermal power plants were built
beside shores, so maybe the sea "land" can also be set as the saline algal
cultivation. The other point is that the cultivation of algae is sometimes unstable
resulting from the bacterial and fungal contamination. Last but not least, we are
not to promote 100 percent baseload electricity supplied by thermal power
plant, nuclear power is also necessary; but by this, we can reduce the side-effect
from it.

Many algal bio-energy related studies have been conducted for decades. First is
the ability of some certain green algae that can produce hydrogen discovered by
Gaffron coworkers since 1939. [1,2]; the hydrogen production is catalyzed by
hydrogenase localized in chloroplast stroma. [3] Most of the methane producing
methods are combining algal cultivation and anaerobic bacterial fermentation.
[4,5]

Last, the lipids metabolism of green algae is also enthusiastically studied,

there many results about different micro-algal lipids content ratio, reaction
efficiency, chemical or physical environmental conditions refer to lipid synthesis
and storage..., etc. Finally, there still some potentials that are not listed here, e.g.
the ability of adsorb radioactive matter and heavy metal in so called biomediation.

Reference

1. Gaffron H. 1939. Reduction of Co2 with H2 in green plants. Nature 143:204-205.
2. Gaffron H. 1944. Photosynthesis, photoreduction and dark reduction of carbon dioxide
in certain algae. Biol Rev Cambridge Philos Soc 19:1-20.
3. Happe T, Mosler B, Naber JD. 1994. Induction, localization and metal content of
hydrogenase in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Eur J Biochem 222:769-774.
4. G. Hansson. 1983. Methane production from marine, green macro-algae. Resources
and Conversation. vol. 8:185-194.
5. Hernndez D, Solana M, Riao B, Garca-Gonzlez MC, Bertucco A. 2014. Biofuels from
microalgae: lipid extraction and methane production from the residual biomass in a
biorefinery approach. Bioresour Technol. 170:370-8.