Algaenius: the green gold versus salt
Algaenius is an award-winning technology that uses halophilic algae as a new, sustainable and economically attractive desalination method. Contributing to climate mitigation, while ensuring the human right to water: a gamechanger for the desalination industry!
Meinke van Oenen
Delft University of Technology
Systems Engineering & Management/Technische Bestuurskunde
Over het initiatief / About the initiative
Algaenius: the green gold versus salt
In welke fase zit jouw initiatief? / In what stage is your initiative?
Heb je jouw initiatief al gevalideerd? / Did you validate your initiative?
“WINNER of the United Nations Gamechanger Challenge 2023, Wetskills Water Challenge, National Sustainability Olympiad (INESPO) & Dutch Junior Water Prize” I have not had the means to do a pilot-scale test. But the technical concept has been judged by more than 50 high-level water experts on novelty and implementability across multiple competitions.
Meer informatie over jouw initiatief / More info about your initiative
Water is an essential and irreplaceable resource for life on earth. Yet, by 2025 more than two-thirds of the world population will be faced with water scarcity (WWF, 2022) .
Since more than 97% of the water on earth is salt, desalination is crucial. But growth of this sector is inhibited because of the high costs, high energy demand and high emissions. Techniques like reversed osmosis are inefficient and unsustainable; creating more harmful waste (brine) than desalinated water.
Algaenius offers a new, sustainable desalination technique using algae: ‘green gold’.
Halophilic algae can desalinate sea- and brackish water up to 90% depending on the given time and algae-concentration. This offers the opportunity to use this partially desalinated water to reliably supply the mining, industrial and part of the agricultural sector and alleviate the pressure on the freshwater demand.
Wat is er anders/nieuw aan jouw idee/oplossing t.o.v. bestaande oplossingen? / What is different/new about your idea/solution compared to existing solutions??
NOT JUST CLIMATE ADAPTATION BUT MITIGATION
Algaenius is the first method in the desalination field that is nature-based by using algae. In contrast to the current, ‘old school’, mechanical methods. The process has unique benefits that make these algae green gold.
What makes these algae ‘green gold’ is that:
1. Algaenius’ process is simple and circular, making it cheaper than current technologies.
- The needed plant is simple in construction and has lower production and maintenance costs compared to membrane techniques. Making it easier for low-income countries to afford.
- Besides, the created waste (biomass) can be upcycled into biofuel or nutrition. This can make the process energy-independent and circular or be used for additional revenue streams.
Creating a system that does not only treat the symptoms of the global climate crisis, but actually faces the root problem.
2. Because of Algaenius’ carbon capture and oxygen emission qualities, the process contributes to climate mitigation.
- During the desalination process only oxygen is emitted (oxygen-emission). Giving the process a positive ecological footprint.
- Additionally, the algae capture high levels of carbon dioxide (carbon-capture). Which offers the opportunity to work symbiotically with industrial plants and use their emissions for desalination.
Wat zijn jouw volgende stappen om het verder te ontwikkelen? / What are your next steps to develop the initiative?
Algaenius can be the NEXT GAMECHANGER for water desalination and can change this crucial industry from grey to green.
However, since this concept is still new and I have not yet had the resources to do a pilot-scale research. The following steps would be taken to further develop Algaenius:
- Start with more research on the technology to increase the Technology Readiness Level. In specific on the exact percentages of desalination the algae can do under the weather specific conditions, as well as the best seawater to algae ratio. This would better indicate and express the efficiency, scalability and feasibility. It would also determine which sectors the desalinated water can supply best.
As part of this research small-scale experiments and test-runs will be done.
- Once a high enough proof of concept is achieved, we can start with final tests. This can be done in partnership with currently interested (governmental) parties in Bonaire, South Africa, Finland and the Netherlands (which I have contacts with).
- Next to all of the technical research, it is important to determine strategy for the economical and governmental aspects of Algaenius. On a governance level it should be decided whether or not Algaenius should be taken public or private. I believe water is a human right. So, my first priority would be to prevent a natural monopoly and avoid the possible excludability of water created by Algaenius.
Once we have the first few plants up and running it is time to start with implementation in the rest of the world and ensure water for all!
Wat heb je nodig om (nog meer) impact te maken met dit initiatief? / What do you need to make (more) impact with this initiative?
I started working on Algaenius when I was 17 years old. It was for my final year project (meesterproef/profielwerkstuk) in high school. In the two years that have passed, Algaenius has gotten a lot of exposure (e.g. NPO Radio 1&2, NOS Stories, etc.) and positive feedback. Especially at the United Nations Water Conference 2023 in New York, where Algaenius won its latest competition: the United Nations Gamechanger Challlenge. For this competition more than 200 student-team initiatives from over 60 countries joined to find the next gamechanger for water.
At this point Algaenius has received 4 (inter)national prizes. I feel that now it is time to scale up and make Algaenius happen. But I cannot do it alone. I need funding for extra manpower and brainpower to support me and to be able to make a big impact with Algaenius. To create a green golden future!