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Dune Buggy Showcases Progress of Algae-to-Biodiesel Pilot Project

The dune buggy that was zipping around the Old Dominion University campus on Monday, Oct. 20, represented one more victory for the university's pilot project for converting algae into biodiesel fuel.

Patrick Hatcher (pictured right), the Batten Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences at ODU and executive director of the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC), got one of the first rides in the new, white buggy that was built by Jes Sprouse (pictured left), the Prince George County entrepreneur who has partnered with ODU to begin building Algal Farms Inc. about 70 miles west of Norfolk.

Sprouse ordered an Italian-made, 10-horsepower diesel engine and a transmission from a Web site, and then designed and built the buggy to showcase the biodiesel fuel being produced with the first harvests of algae grown at Algal Farms.

There is currently a one-acre pond producing algae, and another pond is under construction. More ponds are planned at the 240-acre Prince George parcel as the pilot project matures.

Hatcher and Sprouse told WAVY Channel 10 News on Monday that the buggy is running in the early going on a mixture of 15-percent biodiesel fuel made at the farm from algae and 85 percent commercial biodiesel fuel made from soybeans. The percentage of algae-based fuel will be increased as more algae is produced at the farm. The dune buggy can travel about 100 miles on one gallon of biodiesel fuel.

Next on the agenda, Hatcher said, will be tests of algae-based biodiesel in a full-sized, diesel-engine automobile.

The state-funded VCERC, which is headquartered at ODU, is spearheading the algae-to-biodiesel project, as well as studies of other alternative energy possibilities, such as electricity production by offshore wind turbines. The consortium also includes researchers from Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Hampton University, Norfolk State University, James Madison University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The WAVY report on the dune buggy is at http://www.wavy.com/Global/story.asp?S=9206899.

This article was posted on: October 21, 2008

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