Thursday, 22 April 2010

Pinoy student develops cheap oil technology

Manila Bulletin

In a bid to produce cheaper oil as a solution to the increasing cost and harmful effects to the environment of fossil fuel, an 18-year-old student from the University of the Philippines (UP) has developed a technology that uses recycled plastic to harvest algae for oil production.

Janella Mae Salamania, a student of Applied Physics in UP-Diliman, whose project plan on renewable energy “Oilgae Harvesting Using Plastics” that deals on cheaper method of growing and harvesting algae for the production of oil has caught the attention of the Finnish government.

Salamania is among the 30 talented students, and the only Filipino, who was selected recently from 995 students from 65 countries to participate in the Millennium Youth Camp in Helsinki, Finland from June 6 to 13.

She said the applicants for the Youth Camp were asked to produce a project plan as the basis for the selection of the 30 students. Other selected participants came from countries such as Finland, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, the United States, Costa Rica, Argentina, India, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, New Zealand, and South Africa.

In Salamania’s project plan, recycled plastics and other plastic materials will be utilized to harvest algae instead of the expensive method using stainless steel for oil production.

With the use of recycled plastics, “we can actually harvest oil from algae as a source of renewable energy,” Salamania told the Manila Bulletin.

“The harvested oil from algae will serve as an alternative to the expensive and harmful fossil fuel. By using recycled plastics for harvesting oil from algae, we can also help solve the problem on the disposal of non-biodegradable plastics,” Salamania said.

“Algae biofuel has not yet replaced fossil fuel and remains uncommercialized in the country because the mass production of oil from algae remains expensive,” she added.

She said that given the chance, Salamania would present her study to the government “to further study and invest on this kind of renewable energy source.”

“It would be good if the government will help research other cheap materials, aside from plastic, to harvest oil from algae,” she explained.

Salamania pointed out that the use of algae as alternative source of fuel is better than planting jatropha and converting it to fuel.

“When we plant jatropha, we tend to compete with the farmers’ lands instead of helping them with their livelihood,” she said.

“There are plenty of algae in the Philippines where we can get our source of oil. If we develop harvesting of algae and set up a production of oil, we don’t just help the environment, but we also generate a source of income for the fishermen,” she added.

Salamania, an Oblation scholar, plans to pursue graduate studies, either a masteral in Physics or Geology, when she finishes college.

“When I finish my studies, I would like to work with the government, probably with the PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) or work in prestigious institutions abroad like NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration),” she said.

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