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A biodiesel-fuel research project that Old Dominion University scientists and engineers are leading on behalf of the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC) will be part of a national television show on the Science Channel to be broadcast Monday, Jan. 21.

The show, "Invention Nation," airs at 10 p.m. on Mondays. The next episode will include the ODU segment, and repeats of the show will also be scheduled. More information about the show is available at Science.Discovery.com.

"Invention Nation" follows three young men who are traveling the country in a "green" van powered by biodiesel fuel made from used vegetable oil. The show's stars-Nobu Adilman, Micah Donovan and Chris Martin-are looking for "earth-friendly inventions that work," according to the show's promotional materials.

The young men visited the ODU campus last fall to learn more about a VCERC project that also involves biodiesel fuel. But the raw material being used by the ODU research team is algae, not used vegetable oil from restaurant fryers. The team has installed tanks atop a wastewater treatment plant near the campus in which they are growing algae in effluent. Their goal is a win-win outcome in which algal growth reduces pollutants in the wastewater and also produces an oil-rich biomass that can be converted efficiently into biodiesel fuel.

Preliminary tests of an algae-to-biodiesel conversion process developed at ODU have produced fuel that will power a remote-controlled car equipped with a small internal combustion engine. A success demonstration of the car is part of the Science Channel segment.

Patrick G. Hatcher, ODU's Batten Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences and executive director of VCERC, was the primary spokesman before the Science Channel video cameras for the local biodiesel project.

ODU researchers also are participating in a VCERC project to assess the feasibility of electricity generation by wind turbines off the coast of Virginia.

Other than ODU, VCERC membership includes the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute, James Madison University, Norfolk State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia and Hampton University.

The Virginia Energy Plan adopted by the General Assembly created VCERC to "serve as an interdisciplinary study, research and information resource for the commonwealth on coastal energy issues," with a focus on offshore winds, waves and marine biomass.

This article was posted on: January 17, 2008

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