Protecting the Earth’s environment has always been important to Dr. Ying Science Competition finalist Alexandra Gabrielski. In fact, all of her science projects since kindergarten have always been on the environment.
The summer after Alexandra had completed her sixth grade science project on using algae to sequester carbon dioxide gas prices were more than $4 per gallon and Alexandra realized a sustainable energy source was needed to replace the current non-renewable, polluting fossil fuel energy. Algae biofuel seemed a perfect solution to the world’s energy needs.
Since the 1980s, private companies and research institutions have been trying to find the optimal method for producing biofuel from algae. Hundreds of algae species have been grown in many ways, was harvested and and oil was extracted using different mechanical and chemical means.
Because Alexandra’s project focus is sustainability and the reduction of cost and energy needed to produce algae biofuel, her solution is to create a sustainable, heterotrophic bioreactor will be designed that will recycle and reuse wastewater to save operation expense and reduce pollution. An inexpensive flocculation filter will further reduce costs and energy expenditure. In addition to the extraction of fatty acids for biofuel production; the co-product, astaxanthin, a valuable antioxidant will be extracted and can be sold to offset the cost of biofuel production.
Alexandra’s findings can help humanity because algae biofuel is a renewable energy source, is biodegradable, and produces less air pollution and carbon dioxide, so finding the most efficient and sustainable systems for growing algae and harvesting and extracting lipids and co-products are very important. Since burning fossil fuels has increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then algae may capture and use the carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Also, algae may be able to use wastewater as a nutrient source. Possible sources for the added organic nutrients in commercial algal farms could be wastewater, agricultural waste and power plant emissions, which would help reduce air, water and soil pollution.
Student Biography: Alexandra Gabrielski
Alexandra Gabrielski is a junior at Viera High School. Since third grade, Alexandra has competed in science fairs and her projects have all focused on the environment. Her current five year project on algae biofuel demonstrates her commitment to sustainability. Alexandra has been fortunate to receive many awards for her science fair projects at regional, state and Orlando Science Center, Ying Competition, ISWEEEP and the International Science and Engineering Fair
Alexandra is a member of Viera High School’s Marching Hawks Color Guard. She also enjoys playing the harp, piano and singing. Because of her love of science, she volunteers at elementary schools as a mentor to inspire younger children to participate in science activities.
Alexandra hopes to pursue a degree in Sustainability when she graduates.