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Researchers Develop System for Efficiently Harvesting Seaweed for Biomass

On some beaches, regularly removing seaweed is a necessity to keep the area clean and tidy for users, but the methods currently used are not very efficient or environmentally friendly.

However, a research group at the University of Alicante in Spain has come up with a system that not only removes the seaweed efficiently, but can also process it right on the beach, which could be a big step toward treating this resource as biomass for energy production and other uses.

The recently patented process puts the seaweed through several steps, including washing, drying, and compacting the material, right on the beach where it’s harvested.

According to Professor Irene Sentana Gadea, the research team leader, the new method is not just more efficient and eco-friendly, but is also cheaper.

Older methods for removing the seaweed tend to remove sand from the beaches during the process, which must be replaced, and deals with wet, sandy, and salty seaweed, which is not only heavy to transport, but also limits the ways the seaweed can be used.

The new method is able to leave up to 80% of the original mass (by weight and volume) on the beaches through its multi-stage process.

seaweedharvester

“The system is based on a moving platform with wheels where three hoppers are installed. The first receives shovelfuls of wet seaweed with sand attached. Seawater is pumped in and poured back into the sea dragging the sand with it. In the next hopper, water purified with a solar-powered device would wash most of the residual salt from the algae, and in the third hopper it would be dried with air heated also by solar energy. The clean and dry seaweed could be then pressed by a system similar to the one used by rubbish trucks or converted into bales or pellets, ready to be commercialized. No chemical products would be used in the process.” – University of Alicante

After passing through the system, the resulting dried bales of seaweed can be more easily used in various industries than the soggy, salty, and sandy seaweed that previous systems produced.

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