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BIODIESEL RESEARCH MAKES NATIONAL HEADLINES

News stories about Old Dominion University scientists and engineers producing biodiesel fuel from algae grown in effluent at a local wastewater treatment plant have been published in newspapers and on Web sites in at least 22 states during the past two weeks.

The reports were based on an article by Scott Harper, the environmental reporter for The Virginian-Pilot, which was published in that newspaper on Jan. 19. A version of the article was distributed worldwide by Associated Press Newswires and Dow Jones International News.

In addition to published reports, broadcast stories about ODU's biodiesel project have been done recently by two dozen television stations in 20 states. Another news report about the project appeared on the Science Channel the week of Jan. 21. Documentary makers from the Science Channel visited the campus last fall to do interviews and get videotape images for their report.

The ODU scientists and engineers behind the project are working with the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC), which is headquartered at ODU and involves 10 state institutions. Patrick Hatcher, ODU's Batten Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences, is executive director of VCERC.

Hatcher said that renewable fuel trade publications also have contacted him this week, including one in England, as a result of the spate of recent coverage in popular media.

Most of the news stories point out that Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine keeps a vial of ODU's algae-based biodiesel fuel on his desk in Richmond, and that Pentagon officials and potential private investors also are intrigued by the project.

The work involves algae farming tanks that have been placed on the roof of the Virginia Initiative Plant, a Hampton Roads Sanitation District facility that is adjacent to the ODU campus. Effluent from the plant is piped through the tanks, and the nitrogen-rich waters promote the growth of oil-rich algae. The algae is harvested, dried and converted by means of a process developed at ODU into biodiesel fuel. As the algae grow in the tanks they also remove polluting nutrients from the water.

Other ODU faculty members involved in the project include Margaret Mulholland, associate professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences; Gary Schafran, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Harold Marshall, Morgan Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences; Andrew Gordon, professor of biological sciences; and Aron Stubbins, research assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry and associate director of VCERC.

This article was posted on: January 31, 2008

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