Algae being harnessed to combat climate change and other eco-woes

Consider the algae. Three years ago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology rocket scientist Isaac Berzin had an idea: use the slimy plants to clean up emissions from power plants. Today, at a power plant next to MIT, tubes of healthy algae slurp up 40 percent of carbon dioxide and 86 percent of nitrous oxide before power-plant emissions are released into the atmosphere. Not only that, but harvested algae will squeeze out a combustible biofuel. The right type of algae can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre, compared to soybeans’ measly 60 gallons. What to do with the dried algae flakes left over from biodiesel squeezing? Process them into ethanol. And — wait for it — Berzin claims that the whole shebang can make a profit. His company, GreenFuel Technologies, is currently conducting trials and hopes to be in full production by 2009. Not bad for a plant with just one cell.