A Life Cycle Assessment of a Self-Sustainable Renewable Energy Ecosystem
Student: Kimberlin Schnittker
University of Texas at El Paso
Major: Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
Degree Level: Master of Science
Internship Site: NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio
Mentor: Dr. Bilal Mark McDowell Bomani
Abstract: The sustainability of aviation directly depends on the availability of environmentally responsible fuel. With the growing gap between petroleum production and demand, increasing prices, carbon emissions, mounting environmental regulations, and the limited concentration of known fuel reserves in politically unstable regions, biofuels are considered a viable alternative to securing the future of aviation. Biofuels are a renewable energy source, which could be customized to meet specific fuel needs. NASA GRC developed the GreenLab Research Facility to study two principal sources of biofuels: arid land halophytes (salt-tolerant plants) and sea water algae. Through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the GreenLab, we investigated the benefits and contributions to motivating the next generation in STEM-related fields that the facility and its research offer outweighs the cost of running the program every year. We also looked into the optimization of Chaetomorpha sp. macro-algae by studying its growth under four different conditions. Results showed that a direct light source and some dirt accumulation lead to more successful growth of Chaetomorpha sp. macro-algae.
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