Planet Forward Following Hestekin Team’s Research
Jamie Hestekin and his team of undergraduate engineering students have won Planet Forward’s Innovator of the Year contest. As one of two Innovators of the Year, Hestekin and his team is featured on Planet Forward’s website and television special through 2012 as they work on a method of producing biofuel from algae.
The project focuses on using algae to produce biofuels such as butanol. Algae, which grow quickly in streams and ponds, can be used to remove pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the water and then be harvested to make cleaner-burning biofuel. In addition, the leftover plant material can serve as fertilizer.
Led by Hestekin and co-advisers Bob Beitle and Roy Penney, the students are working on a biofuel miniprocessing unit, a machine that can turn algae and other biomass directly into fuel. Their device, which is small enough to fit in the back of a pickup truck and produces a few milliliters of fuel-grade butanol at a time, could serve as a model for larger applications of this technology. For example, a larger machine based on this model could be used by farmers to turn plants directly into fuel for farm equipment.
Planet Forward, a project of the Center for Innovative Media at George Washington University, features ideas about energy, climate and sustainability on its website and through television specials, which air on public television stations across the country.