Jonathan Trent: Energy from floating algae pods

Call it “fuel without fossils”: Jonathan Trent is working on a plan to grow new biofuel by farming micro-algae in floating offshore pods that eat wastewater from cities. Hear his team’s bold vision for Project OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae) and how it might power the future. TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more. Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at Follow TED news on Twitter: Like TED on Facebook: Subscribe to our channel:

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Comments ( 24 )
  1. robz40
    November 25, 2012 at 4:34 am

    too complicated.

  2. NeoSapien2
    November 25, 2012 at 5:06 am

    I’d we are talking about using unused offshore space to the maximum by integration.and waste mitigation, then we should also exploit the growth of wild algae for biofuel priduction. Instead of spending money on growth modules just continuously harvest mature cells for oils with mass left alive TP .produce more oil and grow fish

  3. NeoSapien2
    November 25, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Besides, direct conversion of wild algae is possible with mobile sun powered harvesters that liquify algae into crude at about 5/gal/d. Bear oceanics is selling these robots for under 2k. He has knew larger scale models coming soon.

  4. NeoSapien2
    November 25, 2012 at 5:40 am

    Not profitabile for the oil companies? What if you you were an integration service that set these modulars up near oil rigs and sold oil directly to them?

  5. rstevewarmorycom
    November 25, 2012 at 5:47 am

    That’s the delusion of the denier, that “gee, these little energies are incapable by themselves, but we can give them a seat at the kids’ table and they can plug a few holes”. Actually wind by itself could meet all our energy needs, and solar all by itself can easily do it, and tidal and wave power is tens of times greater than we need, and geothermal is monstrous as well, but let’s not admit that to anybody, or we might lose our investments in fossil fuels. What an asshole.

  6. lvutodeath
    November 25, 2012 at 6:09 am

    What about Hemp? Algae is on water, hemp is on land.

  7. Mr30ott6
    November 25, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Make the membrane out of recycled water bottles. I think we have a few million of those floating around somewhere…

  8. Powers Mine
    November 25, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Great Ideas, I’m hopeful for the future again.


  9. Rhett Melton
    November 25, 2012 at 7:30 am

    5:05 – 5:10 had me laughing my ass off. 

  10. Mark Zauner
    November 25, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Thank you for your answer!

  11. Viewer9826
    November 25, 2012 at 8:38 am

    UNSW in Australia

  12. adam bubeła
    November 25, 2012 at 9:06 am

    what software were used for making the first animation? I really like it

  13. Mark Zauner
    November 25, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Which universities do you know that offer that?

  14. 52111centrumcz
    November 25, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I meant harvestable energy; if that would have been achieved, it would have been all over the news by now.

  15. MrDindjemek
    November 25, 2012 at 10:27 am

    The tube design in no longer moduled though. So if it leak, the entire system would drain no?

  16. jeetendrag10acc2
    November 25, 2012 at 10:48 am

    i agree with misskee11. the biggest obstacle is that energy sources are not internationally networked. (solar in morroco,wind energy in france,wave energy from britain) all networked and re routed according to generation surplus and consumption. the probelm is more political than scientific. Nuclear and coal should be kept as supplemental peak power compensation.

  17. miskee11
    November 25, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Of course. I meant that a surplus of energy has been produced with fusion, i.e. less energy has been used to creating it than what it has produced.

  18. 52111centrumcz
    November 25, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Energy is always made by fusion, the question is if you get much more than you put in the first place. Unless you get a return of about 7 or 8 to one, its not worth the bother. And when you achieve THAT, its still a question of keeping a stable (material wise) reactor that is going to be operable for many years on end – otherwise what you have is a scientific achievement and curiosity, but of not much use.

    I think in the near term the “power amplifier” concept of a reactor is more viable.

  19. miskee11
    November 25, 2012 at 11:53 am

    It’s not that far away actually. There are major advancements in that field, and recently they’ve managed to actually create energy by fusion. I think it’s a few decades away.

  20. 52111centrumcz
    November 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Far future versus near term future….but yes.

  21. 52111centrumcz
    November 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    try going LFTR first – much lower tech required, and practically done already in the 1960s with a fraction of waste per watt then conventional nuclear.

  22. twistedbass15
    November 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm


  23. jasondesante
    November 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    DO IT

  24. Gourmeticainsularis1
    November 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    He’s doing a good thing there, publishing, not patenting. Sadly, some one else will ruin it by taking advantage of it and patenting it for a marketing scheme.

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