Surprise Life Found Thriving 2,000 Feet Underground
Cyanobacteria were long thought to need the sun to survive. But a new study suggests otherwise and hints at fresh possibilities for life on Mars.
THE IBERIAN PYRITE Belt in southwestern Spain looks looks like a movie set for an alien world. Rusty lakes punctuate the iron-rich landscape. The Rio Tinto, named for its vibrant red coloration, seems to glow against the dull rocks. But dig a little deeper, and things get even weirder.
In a surprise to scientists, cyanobacteria have been found thriving nearly 2,000 feet below the strange landscape, where sunlight, water, and nutrients are scarce. Researchers previously thought these microbes could survive only while basking in the sun’s rays, although they are otherwise a versatile bunch; researchers have found them alive nearly everywhere on Earth.
“You go to the desert, you have cyanobacteria; you go to the sea, you find cyanobacteria. You go to the International Space Station, and they can get [the microbes] up and get them down, and they survive,” says Fernando Puente-Sánchez, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Biotechnology in Spain.
“The last habitat we hadn’t seen before was the subsurface.”
RELATED: SEE THE PLANT KINGDOM’S MICROSCOPIC WONDERS
Cyanobacteria hold an important role in Earth’s history: They were responsible for pumping oxygen into the atmosphere, paving the way for life to swim, slither, hop, gallop and fly around the planet. That’s why the new study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is pushing scientists rethink what can survive deep below our feet—and perhaps even the types of critters we should look for in our search for life on Mars and beyond. (Find out about an underground lake possibly found on Mars.)
Exploring the Deep
Puente-Sánchez, who completed the research as a graduate student at the Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA) in Spain, wasn’t initially looking for cyanobacteria in the rock cores taken from the pyrite belt. Instead, the team expected to find similar bacteria as what are seen on the surface, including the types of microbes that oxidize iron and sulfur.
“But actually, we didn’t,” he says. Instead, cyanobacteria were everywhere on the rocks. At first he thought it a mistake. He recalls fretting: “My Ph.D. is going nowhere; my adviser is going to kill me.”
Control samples helped the team determine that the microbes did not come from contamination due to the drilling fluid nor from processing in the lab. And the cyanobacteria were not found in random locations, as you might expect if the samples had been doused in contaminated liquid. Instead, they were congregating along the fractures in the rock, eking out an existence in the tiny pockets of air. (Learn more about extreme microbes found in the driest part of the Atacama desert.)
The team also confirmed that the cells were alive and not remnants somehow shoved to the deep using a method known as CARD-FISH, which helps identify the genetic material of the cell’s protein factory, known as a ribosome. If a cell dies, this delicate material quickly breaks apart.
Confirmation, however, brought new questions: “What the hell are they doing there? How can they survive?” says Puente-Sánchez.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
The cyanobacteria don’t appear to differ greatly from the same kinds of microbes that thrive at the surface. Metagenomic analysis suggests that they are descendants of rock-dwelling lineages who make their living in tough environments, such as in the desert or within shadowy caves.
But even in the darkest of caves, cyanobacteria were thought to capture some of the scanty photons that ricochet into the space, using the energy from sunlight to split water and generate electrons during photosynthesis. So how do the subsurface bacteria survive without light?
These cyanobacteria seem to be largely chowing down on hydrogen gas, as evidenced by the lack of hydrogen wherever there were lots of cyanobacteria in the cores. The gas is a common food source for microbes, particularly those in the subsurface that have few other options.
The subsurface cyanobacteria, however, seem to be processing and releasing hydrogen electrons using coopted machinery that their surface kin use for photosynthesis. In particular, the microbes seem to be capitalizing on the system’s “safety valve,” an electron release mechanism that produces small amounts of energy.
Microbes on the surface don’t really need this extra energy thanks to the abundance of sunlight, relying on the valve only to keep their cells from frying when light is aplenty. But the subsurface cyanobacteria seem to survive in part on the tiny sips of energy that result from the valve releasing pent-up electrons.
Eggs in a Basket
“It’s a really cool idea,” says Jennifer Biddle, a microbial ecologist at the University of Delaware who was not involved in the work. “They don’t have to replace much machinery to be able to do this.”
Even so, reusing the photosynthesis system is not necessarily a surprise, says Virginia Edgcomb, a marine and subsurface biosphere microbiologist who also wasn’t involved in the study. Microorganisms that live in challenging environments have to be adaptable to survive.
“It’s sort of the ‘eggs in a basket’ analogy,” she says. “It doesn’t make sense to put all your eggs in one basket, because you need to be flexible. You need to be able to use different things as carbon sources, different things as electron acceptors, because chances are your conditions are pretty limiting and unpredictable.”
Both Biddle and Edgcomb add that they have previously seen signatures of cyanobacteria in past subsurface samples, but until now, these microbes were largely ignored or thought of as likely contaminants.
“Prior to this paper, there really wasn’t strong evidence that cyanobacteria weren’t contaminants in subsurface biosphere samples,” Edgcomb says.
Hints of Martian Life
The new find may have implications in the search for extraterrestrial life, Puente-Sánchez says. The Rio Tinto region, in particular, has long been seen as a Mars analog thanks to its abundant iron and sulfur minerals, akin to what’s seen on the red planet.
This latest study underscores the adaptability of life and the possibility of subsurface Martian communities, hidden away from the damaging radiation at the surface. Two rovers are set to launch in 2020 to search for signs of life on Mars: the European Space Agency’s ExoMars and NASA’s Mars 2020. Both are equipped with drills to collect rock core in search of ancient microbial life—but perhaps they may dig up something more recent.
“I’m not claiming that there are cyanobacteria on Mars,” Puente-Sánchez says, emphasizing that instead we need to expand our thinking about what might be able to develop and survive off our planet.
“What we think is a really bad environment—such as the subsurface, such as Mars—it’s feasible for life.”
Perhaps you saw the news recently about astronauts in the International Space Station eating their first home grown lettuce? It’s just a beginning, but in the future, could they grow all their own food and get all their oxygen from plants?
The astronauts of the ISS eating their first home grown lettuce in space. Actually, it’s a first only for US astronauts. The Russian cosmonauts have been eating half their crop on the ISS since 2003. The US astronauts have just had the food passed as okay for them to eat it as well.
Could they grow all their own food and get all their own oxygen from plants?
We probably won’t recreate the tropical jungles and other mini ecosystems of Biosphere 2 in space, at least, not until we can build much larger habitats than the ISS. But what about those smaller scale suggestions for growing food in Lunar or Martian habitats.
Those are space habitats too, in vacuum or near vacuum conditions like the ISS. Could the ideas for these habitats be used in Low Earth Orbit as well?
Early experiments with prototype space habitats for Mars or the Moon were so promising that in the 1980s, scientists were looking into the possibility of a biological Controlled ecological life support system, for future space stations in orbit around the Earth as well. For instance here is a conference on the topic in 1984.
Though most have heard of Biosphere 2, probably not many have heard of the (originally rather secret) closed habitat experiments the Russians did with their BIOS-1, 2 and 3 in the sixties, continuing right through into the eighties.
They produced all the oxygen and nearly all of the food for a crew of three, from a surprisingly small volume of habitat of 315 cubic meters. That included 237 cubic meters set aside for growing crops. Their longest test was 180 days with a crew of three, with nearly everything recycled.
Biosphere 2, which is what most people think about when you suggest a closed habitat.
It’s great for studying closed ecosystems, but it wasn’t designed for space.
- The trees and bushes need lots of space to grow.
- Most of what you see in this photograph is inedible.
- The plants chosen are not especially quick growing.
Something like this might be great in a Stanford Torus type habitat with lots of space, and especially if you have some use for wood and other products from the trees and bushes.
For a small space habitat you need rapidly growing crops, to get as much food as quickly as possible from a small area. Also the faster it grows, the more oxygen it produces. And you want as much of it edible as possible. In short, you want something more like BIOS-3.
Bios 3 – facility in Siberia which was used for a series of ground breaking experiments in closed systems for space habitats in the 1960s through to the 1980s. And still exists today.
This is a model of the habitat. As you see they had it set out with three rooms devoted to growing crops, and one room for the crew quarters. The crops provided all their oxygen and nearly all their food, in a series of experiments in Russia, for a crew of 3. Longest test was 180 days.
They grew ten different crops, including dwarf wheat which they used to make all their own bread. Only 13 square meters of growing area was needed, per person for 78% of their dry food requirements and nearly all their oxygen.
They were by no means the only ones working on this. But they got closer to 100% recycling than anyone else in the field at the time.
They kept healthy. They needed some extra food supplied, such as dried meat, but all the bulky food such as carbohydrates, they grew themselves, and nearly everything else. They baked grains harvested from dwarf wheat and made all their own bread, for instance, from that small growing area, as well as greens, radishes, beets etc. It sounds like a healthy and tasty diet.
(You can get this article as a kindle ebook)
DOES THE ISS HAVE ENOUGH VOLUME TO GROW ITS OWN FOOD?
Is there any chance of doing this in space? The 315 cubic meters of BIOS-3 is large, but not impossible for a space station.
The ISS has a total volume of 32,333 cubic feet, or 915 cubic meters. Nearly three times the volume of the BIOS-3 experiment. So that is enough to grow nearly all the food for eight people at least, including living space for the crew, and provide all their oxygen from the plants.
Then, the BIOS-3 experiments weren’t particularly optimized for volume, as you can see from the model. There is lots of free unused space above the crops. So, you could probably grow food for many more than eight crew, in the volume of the ISS. That is, if the methods of BIOS-3 can be adapted to zero g.
Of course I’m not suggesting that we turn the ISS over to crop growing in space. They need that space for other things. But this preliminary rough calculation is promising enough to look at this more closely.
Also don’t think of it as like your allotment or garden or house plants. There would be no pests in space; no insects at all except the ones you take up with you. And the plants would be grown in sterile conditions using aeroponics with their roots dangling in moist air supplied with nutrients, and in containers or modules separated from the crew quarters. This is a mature and practical technology on Earth and it’s already been shown to work in space. The system would be largely automated with minimal work for the crew.
RELIABILITY OF PLANTS
The crew of the ISS have had many issues with their machines for generating oxygen. The Russian Elektra, and the US OGS for splitting water to make oxygen, and the Sabatier system for recycling CO2 have all had issues, needing to be fixed, and sometimes not functioning for long periods of time. The astronauts often rely on “top up” oxygen from Earth in other forms, including oxygen air tanks and solid oxygen generators. And the system isn’t yet closed. Even with the Sabatier system when it is working properly, they only recycle 50% of the oxygen, and the rest has to be supplied from Earth as water. It’s not a mature technology yet.
They continue to research into this. Currently the aim is to increase the efficiency until they recycle 75% of the oxygen. But the Russian algae system in the 1970s already achieved 100% recycling of oxygen, as well as producing food. So, is there any potential for looking to algae to solve these problems?
Unlike machines, plants and algae always work and don’t need to be repaired. Your dwarf wheat won’t suddenly break down and need parts shipped from Earth to keep it making wheat grains and absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen. And your green algae will never break down either, it’s as reliable as brewing beer or using yeast to raise bread. Nature, through evolution, has sorted that all out millions of years ago. All you need there is reliability of the lighting, plumbing and pumps; a rather lower level of technology, at least if we can get them to grow in space as well as they do on Earth.
Here is a discovery channel program about growing plants using aeroponics in space.
GETTING STARTED – ALGAE FOR OXYGEN
Though crops would be what you want to grow in the future, you would probably start with growing algae for oxygen, as the Russians did.
In the early BIOS-1 experiment they had already shown that you can produce all the oxygen you need for one person from just 20 kg of water and algae (that’s 0.02 cubic meters), spread over 8 square meters of surface area.
This apparently shows the chlorella cultivar used in the originally rather secretive Russian BIOS-1 experiment. Image from this paper I can’t find much by way of details of its construction so far and how it worked – do say if you know more, in the comments. But the principle was simple anyway – supply lots of light to Chlorella algae and it photosynthesizes, absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen. In the first experiment it was in a separate room, tended from outside, and supplied all the oxygen for a single volunteer. In BIOS-2 they put the cultivar inside the habitat, recycled other wastes as well, and produced some crops. In BIOS-3 they made the habitat larger, with a crew of 3, and changed to growing crops as their sole source of oxygen.
In the algae experiments, 20 liters of algae and water (20 kg) spread over eight square meters of lit surface provided all the oxygen for a single person.
That’s small enough so you can consider flying it in even a small module, perhaps even a Bigelow inflatable BEAM module would be large enough.
The inflatable BEAM module, from Bigelow aerospace, which will fly to the ISS later this year is 4 meters long, 3.2 meters in diameter and has 16 m3 living volume, and weighs 1.36 metric tons.
The total volume for all the algae and water, for a crew of six, would be 0.12 cubic meters. Most of the space would be to supply it with lighting and make sure there is plenty of exposed surface area for growing. The lighting for an algae bioreactor can be supplied in many ways with the general aim to make sure as much light gets into as much of the solution as possible. For instance the algae flow in tubes, or you insert light pipes into the solution.
I haven’t been able to find out the details of the system the Russians actually used in their early green algae experiments, particularly, I can’t find a figure for its volume.
But, let’s suppose, just for the sake of calculation, that you have 0.25 of head room for each square meter of algae for the lighting, pumps etc (although more likely to be done as tubes or light pipes etc). Then, you could fit 48 square meters of surface area into a volume of 3 by 2 by 2 or 12 cubic meters. That’s enough surface area to supply all the oxygen for a crew of six. So, that suggests the 16 cubic meters of the BEAM module might already be enough to supply all the oxygen the ISS needs.
The air inside the growing containers is moist, and this is condensed to supply drinking water for the crew.
Artificial lighting of course uses a fair bit of power. For the later experiments with food as well, for crew of 3, the Russian experiment used twenty 6 kW xenon lamps per chamber, three chambers and one of them had all the lights doubled in later experiments. So it used a total of 480 kW of power. (The chambers are called phytotrons in the literature – special research greenhouses built for studying interactions between plants and the environment).
The ISS has maximum power of 120 kW and is often in darkness. So this just couldn’t work, there is not enough power available.
For algae only they used rather less power, three lights, or 18 kW per person, but that still would be 108 kW for a crew of six, which is still not feasible for the ISS.
But with modern LED lights you could reduce those requirements hugely. And especially so, with modern grow lights optimized to produce only the light frequencies the plants need for photosynthesis.
Let’s just check the commercially available high efficiency grow lights for aeroponic growers. As of writing this, August 2015: this High Efficiency Full Spectrum LED Grow Light – uses 20 watts of power to illuminate 0.2 square meters. So that’s 100 watts of supplied power needed per square meter. It is recommended for crops that require bright sunlight such as lettuces in this roundup: Top 10 Best LED Grow Lights, and so seems roughly comparable with the Russian lighting system. So, that would be 800 watts for 8 square meters, or 4.8 kilowatts for the light needed for algae for a crew of six. That’s a rough estimate of course, but it now seems far more manageable for a space station.
Using modern high efficiency LED grow lights like this a crew of six could provide all their own oxygen with 4.8 kW (rough calculation).
The rest of the system – pumps etc, requires less than 1 kW.
By comparison the Russian Elektra electrolysis unit, when it was working, needed 1 kW to supply all the oxygen for a crew of 3 or 4. (I can’t find the figures for the power requirements for the US OGS – if anyone knows do say in the comments). The green algae needs more electricity than you need for electrolysis of water, but it is 100% recycled, needs no resupply of water from the Earth, and also absorbs the CO2 as well and recovers some of the carbon as food.
You could also use fiber optics solar collectors to collect sunlight for the spacecraft to reduce the power requirements, and it could then use even less than the ISS. We’ll come back to this later.
Here is an ESA video about the idea of using Spirulina to produce oxygen in space.
Spirulina is better than the Chlorella used in earlier experiments because it is edible unlike the almost inedible Chlorella.
Spirulina which has been harvested for food in Africa and South America for centuries. This image is credit ESA. It could produce all the oxygen and some of the food for astronauts on board the ISS. Experimental algae bioreactors using Spirulina will fly on the ISS in the near future. And they have already flown cultures to the ISS several times to test how they grow under zero gravity conditions. See the Melissa project.
Spirulina is nutritious and safe to eat. It doesn’t have the toxic byproducts such as BMAA of some other cyanobacteria. It contains about 60% protein, and contains all the essential amino acids, though with less methionine, cysteine and lysine compared with meat and milk (and doesn’t have any vitamin B12 usable by humans). Basically it’s a decent source of protein but needs to be supplemented with B12.
But it’s not such a good source of carbohydrate. Humans need carbohydrates, even the Inuit, it turns out, eat a fair amount of them because of their habits of eating raw meat, fermenting meat, and eating animals with high levels of winter glucose stores.
You can use algae for food, but the mix of proteins and carbohydrates means they can’t be the only source of food.
NEXT STAGE – FOOD
More space is needed for non algae foods because you need head room for the crops. But still, with the crops they use in BIOS-3 such as dwarf wheat – not a huge amount of clearance is needed. With the BIOS-3 experiments they had a total of 237 cubic meters set aside for growing crops. But it is clear the experiment wasn’t set out to be optimized for volume as they only grew the crops in a single level.
With 13 square meters of growing area per crew, conveyor belt system, growing wheat, sedge-nut, beet, carrots, and other crops, ten crops in total, they reduced the daily substance requirements for dry food for the crew from 0.924 kg to 0.208 kg, and for oxygen from 1.22 to 0.35 kg, and didn’t need drinking water or water to hydrate the food at all, with a saving of 5.133 kg a day for water.
So that’s only a little more growing area per person than was needed for the algae. It’s clear from the photographs that they weren’t optimizing for volume, as there is lots of spare headroom above the plants and just one layer of crops in the room. If those 13 square meters per person are all that you need to illuminate, then that makes it 7.8 kW total power for the lighting for a crew of six.
There seems plenty of space for three or four layers if you had them in trays. The wheat was used to make bread. So, that growing area of 237 cubic meters is very much an over estimate.
“Wheat plants of various ages showing the “conveyor” approach that was used in the Bios experiments, Young wheat plants are in the foreground, with more mature plants toward the back. The aisle between benches is narrow (to leave as much space as possible for the crops). The post, with some environmental sensors attached, further obstructs the aisle. Crew members planted various herbs and other special plants in the corner and next to the wall to the left, space that would otherwise be wasted.” photo from here
Build Your Own Hydroponic systems
List of Free Hydroponic System Design Plans
- Easy to Build Hydroponic Drip System
- 6 plant 2 liter bottle Ebb & Flow (Flood and drain) system
- Expandable Hydroponic Water Culture System
- Twelve plant Flood and Drain System designs
- Build your own Window Herb Garden System
- Easy to build five gallon bucket DWC system
- Daily/weekly Hydroponic system charts
- Nutrient Reservoir Cooling Box
- Geothermal nutrient solution cooling system trench design
- Geothermal reservoir cooling system design
- Tips for Growing Plants Successfully in Hydroponics
“Based on my calculations a single 100k sq ft warehouse could produce enough Soylent to feed all of Los Angeles.”
Soylent’s Real Plan: Replace Food With Algae
“Based on my calculations a single 100k sq ft warehouse could produce enough Soylent to feed all of Los Angeles.”
The kind of photobioreactors that may one day produce Soylent. Wikimedia
Rob Rhinehart has long dreamed of creating the ingredients of his grey-goo food replacement, Soylent, from scratch. The company’s—and Rob’s—mantra is essentially “be more efficient.” (Officially, now, it’s “Use Less. Do More,” but same deal.) His provocation has always been that we should spend less time and energy on the entire enterprise of eating; Soylent is supposed to improve efficiency both for bodies and whole systems of production.
So no one’s much surprised that Rhinehart and company are trying to inch closer to his goal of bio-engineering a strain of algae that produces Soylent in toto, as absurd as the aim may sound. (To be fair, three years ago, the notion that a homebrew food replacement shake would be reaping millions of dollars in Silicon Valley venture capital might have sounded pretty absurd, too.) With the announcement of Soylent 2.0, which ships in ready-mixed bottles, Rhinehart has added algae into the mix as a crucial ingredient. And he says he plans on going much, much further.
The algae in Soylent 2.0 is grown by the biotech company Solazyme, in a facility owned by the Archer Daniels Midland, the food processing giant.
“The oil is then pressed out much like olive oil,” Rhinehart told me in an email. “It’s amazingly efficient. Entire tanks can be filled in days.” Solazyme calls the stuff AlgaWise; in its latest earnings report, it presumably referred to Soylent when it noted that “an exciting new beverage company is launching a meal replacement drink made with an AlgaWise oil.”
Two years ago, when I was living off of the beta version, Rob told me that his ultimate vision for Soylent, the totally ideal non-food food, was to grow the stuff with nothing but sunlight, air, and H20, in algae-filled bioreactors. Then he’d distribute the product directly to residences, where it would come out of a tap, like water.
“Based on my calculations a single 100k sq ft warehouse could produce enough Soylent to feed all of Los Angeles”
He elaborated on said ambition in a 2014 New Yorker piece: “Rhinehart’s real goal, however, is more ambitious: the company has been testing an omega-3 oil that comes from algae instead of from fish oil. Eventually, Rhinehart hopes, he will figure out how to source all of Soylent’s ingredients [from algae]—carbohydrates, protein, lipids. ‘Then we won’t need farms’ to make Soylent, he said. Better yet, he added, would be to design a Soylent-producing ‘superorganism’: a single strain of alga that pumps out Soylent all day. Then we won’t need factories.”
I asked Rhinehart if that’s still the plan.
“Exactly,” he replied. “And we’ve taken a big step already with 20 percent of total calories coming from algae. Next the focus is on protein. I see no reason why we can’t get to total single cell synthesis within a few years.” And he says he’s got a blueprint for how he’ll get there.
“In the interest of building a sustainable business to fund our research we’ve been focused primarily on product improvements and new products, like the launch today, but I’ve also worked on setting up infrastructure including lab building and recruiting and drawn up a roadmap for reaching the goal of cell synthesis, starting with protein,” Rhinehart said. “This process has two modules: one strain engineering to develop and optimize the organism that produces, the other bioreactor engineering to make an ideal growth environment for the strain(s).”
In other words, he wants to bioengineer the Soylent-spewing algae, and build a facility that can nurture and churn it out—and do it all efficiently, naturally.
“In the future Soylent may be made in modular, somewhat centralized photobioreactor facilities,” he continued. “Based on my calculations a single 100k sq ft warehouse could produce enough to feed all of Los Angeles, and one could easily scale up or down capacity. Or, perhaps the bioreactors will eventually be simple enough that everyone will have their own at home that makes food on demand. All that is required is electricity, gathered by solar I hope, and ambient CO2 and nitrogen. Water is also needed but that could be cycled through so there is negligible loss.”
If that sounds science fictional or dystopian to you—giant reactors churning out algal slush en masse—well, I’m sure Rhinehart doesn’t care. He seems to be growing even more ascetic, increasingly spartan in his own extreme outlook. In a recent blog post, he described how he had gone off the grid, hooked up some solar panels, and gotten rid of his fridge entirely. Then his kitchen. He’s off food and power now. Gizmodo accused him of displaying “all the hallmarks of a cult leader.”
“The first space colonies will have no coal power plants. I am ready,” he wrote. “For now though, as I am driven through the gleaming city, my hunger peacefully at bay, I have visions of the parking lots and grocery stores replaced by parks and community centers, power plants retrofitted as museums and galleries.” With the algal bioreactors and solar panels will come leisurely peace; that’s the dream. If humanity can become efficient enough to pull it off.
“Traffic and trash and pollution will evaporate,” Rob concludes, “if only we are willing to adapt some routines.”
DIY Algae Bioreactor from Recycled Water Bottles
Lessen your carbon footprint by building this DIY algae bioreactor capable of producing its own biofuel.
Do It Yourself Projects to Get You Off the Grid (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018) is illustrated with dozens of full-color photographs per project accompanying easy-to-follow instructions. This Instructables collection utilizes the best that the online community has to offer, turning a far-reaching group of people into a mammoth database churning out ideas to make life better, easier, and, in this case, greener, as this volume exemplifies. Twenty Instructables illustrate just how simple it can be to make your own backyard chicken coop, or turn a wine barrel into a rainwater collector.
In this Instructable, we describe how to build a photo-bioreactor that uses algae to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into energy. The energy that is produced is in the form of algae biomass. The photo-bioreactor is built from plastic recycled water bottles. By designing the apparatus to be compartmentalized, we are able to do many experiments in parallel. By using algae as a biofuel, we can increase the world’s supply of oil while at the same time we decrease the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide used during its production. The resulting product is a sustainable biofuel whose carbon footprint is neutral inasmuch as the CO2 produced on consumption is essentially balanced by the CO2 used in its production. In this Instructable, we first make the carbon dioxide delivery system, then mount the water bottles on a rack, and then inoculate the bottles with algae. After letting the algae grow for a week, we extract the biomass.
Step 1: Make Carbon Dioxide Delivery System
1. To make the carbon dioxide delivery system, connect an eight-port sprinkler system manifold to a 1” long PVC pipe.
2. To get good seals, use Teflon tape to tape the threads before attaching the pieces together.
3. Next, attach the 1” pipe to a T-connector. Block off one end of the T-connector and attach the other end to 1’ long PVC pipe.
Step 2: Attach Tubing to Manifold
1. For each manifold, cut eight pieces of flexible tubing and connect each piece to a port of the manifold. The manifold that I am using has a dial on each port to control the rate of flow.
2. Make sure all the ports that you use are open and allow approximately the same amount of carbon dioxide to flow through the port.
Step 3: Mount Carbon Dioxide System
3. Mount the air system to a metal rack using zip ties. Attach the air system to a tank of carbon dioxide.
Step 4: Mount Water Bottles
1. Hot glue the water bottles to the metal rack.
Step 5: Make Algae Media
1. We next make the medium to grow the algae. Although there are many possible mediums, a standard garden store fertilizer contains all the nitrogen and nutrients that the algae need.
Step 6: Media Inoculation
1. A good source of algae is pond algae, if available. If not, there are a large number of online vendors that sell batches of algae.
2. To inoculate the culture, measure out a fixed amount of algae and add it to the growth medium.
Step 7: Growth and Harvesting
1. After several days of sunlight and CO2 exposure, the algae are much denser.
2. A French press is then used to extract the algae from the solution.
3. The biomass of the dried algae can then be used as a fuel.
4. As a by-product of this process, a large amount of atmospheric CO2 is sequestered.
The Elektron Device
The ‘Elektron’ device supplies the International Space Station with an unlimited supply of breathing oxygen, given an unlimited supply of water as raw material (the water mostly comes from partially distilled urine, but any water will do as long as it doesn’t have harmful impurities). But the electro-mechanical device must also function, and over the years cosmonauts on Mir and on the ISS have tinkered with units, swapping out spare parts or rebuilt worn-out parts, to nurse the units along. The US has nothing like it qualified for long-term space missions.
THE FIRST IN-FLIGHT EXPERIMENTS (1987-1089)
An experimental electrolysis unit was installed on the Kvant module that was linked to ‘Mir’ in April 1987. This was superceded by an operational unit, the first ‘Elektron’, aboard Kvant-2 launched in December 1989.
NASA has invented an innovative method to grow algae, clean wastewater, capture carbon dioxide to ultimately produce biofuel. The invention consists of floating flexible plastic enclosures, and photo-bioreactors with semi-permeable membranes. This new cultivation system is made of lightweight material and deployed offshore. This avoids problems of land costs and competition with other land uses. The surrounding waters provide infrastructure, cooling, and some mixing from wave action. Ideally, this cultivation system is filled with nutrient-rich domestic wastewater and a source of CO2 to promote the growth of algae and to remediate pollution.
This patented technology is available for licensing from NASA’s space program to benefit U.S. industry.
• Expanded use of protected bays for biomass production
• Biomass produced without competing with agriculture land use
• Advanced wastewater treatment
• Carbon dioxide captured – reduces global warming
Growing oxygen from spirulina in space
January 1, 2018
hough the International Space Station is regularly restocked by cargo vessels, like today’s Dragon, self-sufficient spaceflight in the future will require us to recycle and reuse precious resources like oxygen. An experiment in space will soon look into doing just that.
Researchers are studying how photosynthesis — the process by which organisms convert light into energy, producing oxygen as a byproduct — takes place in space. This pilot project is the first of its kind, and its researchers and engineers hope to follow it up with a longer study that continuously feeds in microalgae.
Dubbed the Artemiss project, the astronaut researchers loaded the microalgae Arthrospira, also known as spirulina, into a specially designed photobioreactor. On the Space Station, carbon dioxide will be transformed by photosynthesis into oxygen and edible biomass such as proteins.
Though a routine process on Earth, we must understand how it works in space before we can exploit it, says the mission crew. The experiment will run for a month as the amount of oxygen from the algae is measured.
The microalgae will be analyzed after Dragon returns to Earth next April, looking at the genetic information to build a clearer picture of the effects of weightlessness and radiation on the plant cell. Arthrospira is known to be highly resistant to radiation, but the researchers need to check how well it can stand up to the conditions of space.
The Artemiss project is part of the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative, or Melissa, effort that is developing regenerative technologies for life support. Melissa covers many research and education activities, such as the AstroPlant citizen science project, which is collecting data on how plants grow under varying degrees of light.
Berlin, Germany-based biotechnology startup Solaga is working on developing the commercial potential of microalgae biofilms. The company is currently involved in two major projects — what they consider sustainable applications of this technology. The first is a frame containing a biofilm that has the purpose of cleaning air…
Milenio.com reports that BiomiTech, a Mexican company, won a prestigious innovation award for its air purification system at the Contamination Expo Series 2018 held in Birmingham, England, this past week. BiomiTech bested six other finalists in the innovation category with its Biourban 2.0 system…
Dartmouth scientists have created a more sustainable feed for aquaculture by using a marine microalga co-product as a feed ingredient. The study is the first of its kind to evaluate replacing fishmeal with a co-product in feed designed specifically for Nile tilapia. The results are published in the open access journal, PLOS ONE…
Miniature “factories” found in bacteria, called bacterial microcompartments, are widespread in nature and do different things depending on the host. For example in cyanobacteria, which harvest energy from the sun, they help to construct high energy compounds. In our own guts, pathogenic bacteria use the factories…
Japan for Sustainability reports that Osaka City University announced on April 25, 2018, that it succeeded in developing a new biofuel cell system with the functions of a solar cell and the ability of carbon dioxide conversion. Utilizing the photosynthesis function of spirulina, this solar-light driven biofuel cell…
Sophie Kevany writes in Decanter.com that a group of vineyards in France’s Bordeaux and Cognac regions are exploring whether algae can be used to prevent the fungal infections mildew and botrytis, both posing significant problems to their grapes due to the region’s warm, damp conditions. While the traditional copper…
Trudie Carter writes for dezeen.com that the new footwear collection from Spanish fashion brand Ecoalf is made from recycled plastic and algae found in oceans and rivers. Old plastic bottles sourced from the Mediterranean Sea are used to create each pair of Shao sneakers. This discarded plastic is processed into a yarn…
Have some of the final engineering limitations of microalgae been overcome? Can microalgae be hosts for genetic engineering as powerful as bacteria and yeast? A promising new technique for gene design seems to overcome expression limitations of nuclear transgene expression for practical eukaryotic algal engineering…
Amy Thompson writes in Space.com that SpaceX successfully launched its 15th Space Station cargo-resupply mission on Friday, June 29; carrying a payload of experiments designed to better understand how astronauts can have access to fresh foods and grow their own in space. This mission — dubbed VEG-03G…
Colin Donald writes for Insider.co.uk that algae produced from the co-products of Scotland’s whisky industry could be used in health products for human consumption, if the winner of a major young entrepreneurial competition is successful. Douglas Martin, whose company MiAlgae was crowned…
Israeli-based Algatechnologies, Ltd. (Algatech), is teaming up with the Italian R&D company, Sphera Encapsulation S.r.l (Sphera), to develop innovative functional ingredient formats. Based on Sphera’s propriety encapsulation technology, the partnership will focus first on development of new delivery forms…
At the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Science Nordic.com reports, researchers are investigating bioluminescent algae, to determine whether bioluminescent organisms could one day light up our cities in a turquoise blue light. There are some clear challenges to solve. The researchers say that they may…
Tom Callis reports in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that farms in Hawaii could become “zero waste” if a state-funded demonstration project proves viable. The state’s Agribusiness Development Corp. is proposing to build a $1.5 million facility at the Shipman Business Park that would grow algae from leftover produce…
Xinhua.net reports that German academics and industry launched a program recently, aiming to develop a new type of environmental, even edible, food package made of algae. The program, named Mak-Pak, involves University of Applied Sciences Bremerhaven, Alfred Wegener Institute and fast food chain…
A cheap, safe and effective method of dealing with harmful algal blooms is on the verge of being introduced following successful field and lab tests. Moves to adopt use of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as an effective treatment against toxic algae are already underway following the results of new research by a team from…
At Ikea’s SPACE 10 research center, the fast food of the future is being reimagined for a tastier tomorrow. Three years ago, the lab introduced the world to Tomorrow’s Meatball — a visual rethinking of IKEA’s iconic meatball using alternative ingredients such as insects, algae, and lab-grown meat…
In the EU project PhotoBioCat international doctoral students under expert guidance use light as a “fuel” to accelerate enzymatic reactions by means of cyanobacteria. It is hoped that this will make the biocatalytic production of chemicals considerably more sustainable. The recently launched project is coordinated by a team led by…
Tens of thousands of pounds of plastic Mardi Gras beads enter the environment every year. After the parades, most of the discarded beads end up in the landfill. Now, a biologist at Louisiana State University (LSU) is developing an innovative way to solve this problem by creating biodegradable Mardi Gras beads…
Dennis C. J. Kharagpur writes in Research Matters that scientists from Indian Institute of Khragpur (IIT KGP) have developed a novel method to estimate the biomass and pigment concentration of algae, without having to touch or disturb the organism. The new process could help industries, such as the pharmaceutical…
In a collaboration that could lead to a new class of drugs to replace opioids and help fight the national opioid epidemic, Renew Biopharma has announced it is collaborating with Ken Mackie from the Indiana University (Bloomington) Gill Center for Biomolecular Science to help screen and develop human therapeutics…
For millions of people with type 2 diabetes, ongoing vigilance over the amount of sugar, or glucose, in their blood is the key to health. A finger prick before mealtimes and maybe an insulin injection is an uncomfortable but necessary routine. Researchers with NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging…
Though the International Space Station is regularly restocked by cargo vessels, like today’s Dragon, self-sufficient spaceflight in the future will require us to recycle and reuse precious resources like oxygen. An experiment in space will soon look into doing just that. Researchers are studying how photosynthesis…
Ali Morris writes in dezeen.com that Dutch designers Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros have developed a bioplastic made from algae, which they believe could completely replace synthetic plastics over time. The algae polymer could be used to make everything from shampoo bottles to tableware to rubbish bins…
Minna Fingerhood writes in NoCamels that Seakura, headquartered in Herzliya, Israel, and with offices in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium, has worked since 2006 to develop and produce its organic “super seaweed.” The company promotes their macroalgae as one serving having double…
https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20040012725.pdf nasa life support system document
Now UC Davis graduate student Zhou Lu, working with professors in the Departments of Chemistry and of Earth and Planetary Sciences, has shown that oxygen can be formed in one step by using a high energy vacuum ultraviolet laser to excite carbon dioxide. (The work is published Oct. 3 in the journal Science).
October 4, 2018
Globalist “Deep State” Recoils In Horror As “Kavanaugh Earthquake” Destroys Canada, With Brazil Soon To Follow
By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers
A fascinating new Security Council (SC) report circulating in the Kremlin today reviewing the just submitted plan to de-dollarize the Russian economy within the context of the massive new oil sales expected after China (America’s second-largest oil client) cut off all of its supplies from the United States yesterday, that comes at the same time Switzerland has said it would join a new interbank payment system independent of US, sees Security Council Chairman President Putin noting that America has made the “typical mistake of any empire” by trying to force its will on other nations—with the best example of this being true evidenced in Canada this past week when President Trump loyal national populist forces caused a seismic shift sending shudders of terror throughout the entire ranks of “Deep State” globalist forces by routing the leftist-liberal forces arrayed against them—and whose repeat of is about to be played out in Brazil this coming Sunday (7 October) when national populist forces put into power the “Tropical Trump” Jair Bolsonaro—all of which is due to what is being called the “Kavanaugh Earthquake” that has put on display before the entire world how utterly ruthless and demonic these leftist forces seeking power at all costs really are. [Note: Some words and/or phrases appearing in quotes in this report are English language approximations of Russian words/phrases having no exact counterpart.]
According to this report, at the beginning of this past fortnight, three pivotal election battles between Trump-led national populist and “Deep State”-aligned globalist forces were set play out—in Macedonia, voting to ascend to the EU-NATO, the French speaking Canadian province of Quebec voting for a new government, and the South American nation of Brazil voting for a new president.
With Trump-inspired national populists having just overthrown their leftist globalist leaders in Australia, who followed by weeks Trump-loyalists in Italy taking power, too—both of whom now join the Trump-led populist forces in Hungary freeing its peoples from leftist rule, and the Trump populist forces in Poland, this report notes, “Deep State” aligned globalist forces put every effort they had into stopping this mounting global national populist tide from overtaking Macedonia, Quebec and Brazil—but all of whose efforts and actions collapsed into rubble this past two weeks as the entire world watched in stunned horror the leftist political assassination of US Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Entire world watches in horror as American “Deep State” politically assassinates US Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his wife, and his two child daughters
Much too little, and much too late, this report details, the past 24-hours has seen the “Deep State” aligned leftist mainstream propaganda media establishment in the United States awakening to the part they were playing in the political assassination of Judge Kavanaugh, his wife and two little daughters—best exampled by the near communist leftist MSNBC news network host Joe Scarborough stating “the media coverage of this has been so one-sided, it has been so biased, the media’s presumption from the beginning has been that every single allegation made against the judge was true”.
This MSNBC acknowledgement of their part played in the “Deep State” led “one-sided/biased” mainstream propaganda media hit job on Judge Kavanaugh, however, this report explains, was met head on by the Trump-loyalist New York Post proclaiming “Let the folk ballad of Brett Kavanaugh be a warning to the liberal establishment the next time they’re tempted to go this far, this low”—and who further railed against this political assassination by proclaiming:
Brett Kavanaugh is no longer a mere Supreme Court nominee. His name is now a veritable conservative cause — one that has united the right for the first time since the 2016 primary sent Republicans quarreling over Trump and Never Trump.
Liberals set out to cast the federal judge — amiable, well-credentialed, mildly conservative — as a demon.
In the process, they have reminded GOP voters and all but the most stubborn Never Trump intellectuals that there are worse things than Donald Trump’s outbursts and the ineptitude of congressional Republicans.
Whatever disputes we have on our own side, the thinking on the right now goes, we have to set them aside and stop a politics of personal destruction, fueled by a moral panic and an uncritical mainstream media that sees itself as an adjunct of the anti-Trump resistance.
These forces have combined to turn Kavanaugh into a folk hero, a stand-in for every American who has found himself falsely accused, or railroaded by malicious hearsay, or facing an unfeeling bureaucracy that treats juvenile missteps as unforgivable sins.
“Deep State” globalists unwittingly transform US Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh into folk hero now revered the world over
Likewise, this report continues, the globally renowned financial newspaper of record Wall Street Journal has just warned its readers that the Kavanaugh fight isn’t about Trump at all, and has them declaring “We’re all deplorables now”—with their further grimly stating what the true agenda is:
Republicans across America can see, and certainly their Senators voting on Judge Kavanaugh should realize, that the left hates them as much or more than they loathe Mr. Trump.
Conservatives understand that, for the American left, they are all deplorables now.
Democrats were so worried about Senate norms that they hid Ms. Ford’s name from Republicans for six weeks, found her a lawyer, midwifed a lie detector test whose results they still haven’t fully disclosed, and then orchestrated the rollout of her accusations.
Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is too often divisive and dissembling, but no action in his Presidency comes close to matching the partisan viciousness of the Senate ambush of Brett Kavanaugh.
These are today’s Democratic norms.
The other Democratic targets here are Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the conservative GOP majorities in Congress that have cut taxes, eased crushing regulations and confirmed a record number of appellate judges.
Democrats claim to want to be a “check” on Mr. Trump, but good luck with that.
Their real goal is to retake Capitol Hill, roll back tax reform, expand the entitlement state, taunt Mr. Trump like a dancing bear, and set up 2020 for a return of the Obama agenda under the identity-politics leadership of Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren.
In the midst of the “Deep State” conducting their political assassination of Judge Kavanaugh, though, this report says, they failed to notice that their Democrat Party lead over Trump loyalists in the soon to come 2018 Midterm Electionshad all but evaporated—but whose worst failing was their forgetting that this titanic American power struggle has been playing out on television screens the world over in real time—and whose first catastrophe for the globalists’ agenda occurred on 30 September when less than 37% of the peoples in Macedonia showed up for a critical EU ascension that needed over 50% to be valid—and whose sentiments are described as “Macedonians have rejected this media, psychological, political and propaganda aggression against the people, and that’s the tragedy of these days, that a large percentage of a people that had been genuinely oriented towards the West has changed its mind and stopped looking at the West as something democratic, something progressive and successful”.
One day later, on 1 October, this report continues, the French speaking peoples in Canada’s Quebec Province, likewise, threw off the yoke of their “Deep State” globalist oppressors by their overwhelming electing to power a Trump-styleanti-illegal immigrant nationalist populist government—and whose business-friendly Coalition Avenir Quebec, while being appalled at the political assassination of Judge Kavanaugh, watched with pride as President Trump protected their nation’s fisheries and completed the astounding USMCA Trade Agreement between the United States-Canada-Mexico that, for the first in history, gives Mexican workers a living wage of at least $16 an hour, while guaranteeing their rights to join unions if they so choose.
On 7 October, this report further notes, the trifecta purging of these “Deep State” globalists from the world economy is expected to take place in Brazil when that South American nation votes for its new president—and whose winner is expected to be the national populist Jair Bolsonaro, whom the Western media has branded the “Tropical Trump”—and in a country captivated like the rest of the entire world with the Judge Kavanaugh saga, is now seeing his support among women soaring to new heights.
President Donald Trump with soon-to-be Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
With the “Deep State” battle over Judge Kavanaugh reaching its climax, this report concludes, the catastrophic damage being done to these maniacal globalists the world over by President Trump sees no signs of abating, either—most particularly due to new bombshell evidence being released by the US Congress proving that Obama’s FBI directly colluded with Hillary Clinton to frame Trump for false Russian collusion smears in order to plant spies and place illegal surveillance within his campaign—and once fully known to the American people will, without a doubt, raise Trump’s level of popularity among his people even higher than the 50% mark it stands at now—thus proving him as being as powerful against these godless elites as was his national populist namesake from nearly two centuries ago President Andrew Jackson.
October 4, 2018 © EU and US all rights reserved. Permission to use this report in its entirety is granted under the condition it is linked back to its original source at WhatDoesItMean.Com. Freebase content licensed under CC-BY and GFDL.
“The media coverage of this has been so one-sided, it has been so biased,” Scarborough claimed, adding the media’s “presumption from the beginning has been that every single allegation made against the judge was true.”
Scarborough then likened what we are seeing with the Kavanaugh confirmation coverage with the general election of 2016. “This is what happened in the run-up to the Trump election. Not even considered the possibility that Donald Trump might win. So they were shocked by it.”
October 3, 2018
Kavanaugh Accuser Blasey-Ford Exposed As FBI Operative Working For Former FBI Deputy Director McCabe
By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers
A woman exits The Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City on April 10, 2018.Brendan McDermid / Reuters file
The presidency has been bad for Donald Trump’s finances, with his personal net worth falling from $4.5 billion to $3.1 billion over the past two years, according to the latest Forbes billionaires list.
Trump dropped 138 spots to 259 on the Forbes 400, an annual measure of the richest people in the U.S. During that same period, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos rose to the top spot, with an estimated fortune 52 times greater than that of the president, at $160 billion.
Forbes attributed the decline of Trump’s fortune to three main factors: e-commerce eating into the value of Trump’s real estate holdings, the intrusion of heightened security at Trump’s resorts, and Trump’s own over-reporting of the size of his penthouse.
“Much as he’s trying — and he’s definitely trying — Donald Trump is not getting richer off the presidency,” according to Forbes.
Collusion bombshell: DNC lawyers met with FBI on Russia allegations before surveillance warrant
USMCA, Trump’s new NAFTA deal, explained in 500 words
A very simple explanation of the new trilateral trade deal.