Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010
CLEMSON UNIVERSITY STUDENT DOING SUSTAINABILITY RESEARCH ON BIOFUELS AT K-STATE
MANHATTAN -- One student is conducting sustainability research at Kansas State University this summer that could make the world -- and specifically Manhattan -- a greener place to live.
Natasha Bell, a senior at Clemson University in South Carolina, is one of nine students at K-State this summer participating in the "Earth, Wind and Fire: Sustainable Energy in the 21st Century" research experiences for undergraduates program. The program involves multiple disciplines, including chemistry, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, grain science, and biological and agricultural engineering, all working to develop sustainable energy technologies.
"I was really excited about the K-State research experiences for undergraduates program when I applied for it because the chemical engineering portion was specifically geared toward sustainability and being environmentally sustainable," said Bell, who is from Spartanburg, S.C. "K-State's program was one of the strongest 'go-green' programs I came across."
Bell's individual project is on the potential use of algae as a biofuel to lessen fossil fuel dependence. More specifically, her project involves growing two strains of algae in large test tubes: one that is naturally occurring in a lagoon, and one that is a pure species.
Algae's efficient growth rate and high lipid content makes the substance a strong contender to become a renewable biofuel, Bell said.
"I'll be doing daily tests on each species," she said. "What I will ultimately determine is how much each species grew and its lipid content at the end. We'll compare the two, and the one with the higher lipid content will most likely be better to use in biofuels."
In addition to her individual project, Bell is collaborating with the other students in her program on a sustainability assessment of Manhattan. The project is researching how sustainable the city is, the steps it could take to become more environmentally friendly and how citizens can make their daily choices -- for example, paper or plastic -- more sustainable.
For the past 15 years the National Science Foundation has funded many undergraduate summer research experiences in various fields at K-State to stimulate interest in graduate education and a research career. In addition to the sustainability research program, K-State currently has ongoing summer research experiences for undergraduates programs in biology, physics and mathematics.