Jonathan Trent, a NASA researcher, presented his OMEGA Project at the CAFE Foundation’s 2010 Electric Aircraft Symposium. It promised a simple and practical way to grow oil-rich algae using effluent from city waste, and processing it with sunlight and wave motion in a continuous process. Such a system would clean wastewater, reduce CO2, and provide non-food-stock-based biofuels for transportation.
OMEGA, “Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae”, is now a more complex system as Dr. Trent and at least three research teams develop the technology in the San Francisco Bay Area and at Santa Cruz on the nearby California coast.
In this TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) lecture from 2011 Dr. Trent gives an update on the process and how it can be integrated with other energy technologies and even seafood cultivation enterprises to bring power and prosperity to our coastal regions. It is an engaging and thought-provoking 17 minutes, and addresses the issue of food vs. biofuels in a strong, but caring way.
The Global TED site has an even more current version, and reflects most of the concepts shown here.