Is Blue Energy the Future?


Funding Unsuccessful. This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on August 30, 2015.

  • £70.00

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This campaign will only be funded if at least £500.00 is pledged by August 30, 2015.

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Blue Energy research is important…

It is internationally acknowledged that alternative energy resources are required to replace fossil fuels as soon as possible. In addition, there is an increasing global demand for energy.  This predicament means that it has never been more important for scientists to find new ultra efficient ways of generating renewable energy that are also profitable for suppliers.

One of the latest emerging renewable energy resources is blue energy. Blue energy production requires fresh and salt water. If blue energy plants were to be placed at all river estuaries, it has been calculated that they could generate as much as 7% of our global energy demand.

There are many advantages of blue energy compared to other sustainable energy sources like solar and wind energy.
– No landscape or visual restrictions
– No pollution (heat, exhaust, Co2)
– Its production is continuous
– Potentially cheaper than sun and wind energy
All together it shows that blue energy is potentially one of the best sustainable energy resources in the world. Therefore, additional research is required to improve efficiency, sustainability and reduce costs of blue energy generation.  We are a young team of scientists who plan to do exactly that!

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We want to find a way to harness lots of sustainable energy from our waterways via blue energy

How does blue energy work?

Blue energy is the energy that is released when salt and fresh water are mixed under specific circumstances.  Salt, sodium chloride (NaCl), when dissolved in water, splits into positively charged sodium and negatively charged chloride ions. These ions equally spread throughout the water, similar to dye added to water. If you add water to salt water, sodium and chloride ions will move around until they are equally spread again. This naturally occurring chemical process is the power that drives blue energy generation.

Blue Energy Crowdfunding Walacea

At the mouth of rivers salt water and fresh water mix. In these areas, using the techniques described, electricity can be generated.

To transform this form of power, known as osmotic power, into blue energy specific membranes and electrodes are required. These membranes need to be placed between three adjacent compartments, where the middle compartment is filled with salt water and the other two with fresh water. These membranes are ion-selective and can be seen as a filter. They prevents the exchange of water between both compartments, but allows the passage of sodium or chloride ions.

Two types of ion-selective membranes are used: Cation Exchange Membranes (CEM) and Anion Exchange Membranes (AEM). The cation membrane is positively charged and promotes the transfer of chloride ions. The anion membrane is negatively charged and promotes the transfer of sodium ions.

The result of this is that the sodium and chloride ions move from the salt water through the membranes to the fresh water. The electrodes placed in the fresh water compartment are able to convert the movement of the charged ions into blue energy via a chemical process. These electrodes either oxidize or reduce to restore the change in charge. This change results from the increase of charged ions in the fresh water compartment. The oxidation and reduction of the electrodes generate a current; a blue current. Simple! 😉

Blue Energy Crowdfunding Walacea

This diagram should bring you back to chemistry lessons!! The take home message is that the movement of salt from salt water to fresh water has a force to it that can be captured and made into electricity.

What are you trying to discover and what do you need to make this happen?

We hope to discover a biological membrane or biofilm that is cheaper and a more sustainable alternative to the currently used membranes that generate blue energy by the mechanism described above.

A biofilm forms in the natural world when bacteria adhere to surfaces in moist environments by excreting a slimy, glue-like substances.  Examples that you will be familiar with include the plaque that forms on our teeth or the slimy layer that appears on rocks.

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The yucky slime on this rock is a biofilm and the rock is the carrier. The aim of our experiment is to create a stable biofilm on a carrier at the mouth of rivers so we can use the variation in salt concentrations to generate blue energy. It won’t look anything like this but the principle of the biofilm and carrier is the same.

In nature, biofilms are usually formed of several different types of micro-organisms, however in this experiment we are using biofilms that are purely made of the bacterium, Bacillus subtilis. Biofilms made of  Bacillus subtilis have remarkable architectural features, made up of very sophisticated cell specialisations and cell-cell communication within their community.

In order to make the biofilms even better our team will modify a Bacillus subtilis biofilm in such a way that its biofilm has more potential to generate blue energy. The modifications will induce overexpression of genes that promote rigidity of the biofilm and result in a more negatively charged biofilm that is better for creating energy.

One requirement of a rigid biofilm is the presence of a carrier, on which the biofilm can grow. Ideally this carrier is biological and promotes biofilm growth without influencing the ion-selectivity of our biofilm.

In order to create a biofilm that is able to grow under water we require a drip flow reactor setup.  To test the ability of our membrane in generating blue energy we need an experimental setup, which would be able to test ion-selectivity, energy production of our biofilm and currently used membranes.

biofilm

This is a picture of our biofilm!

How much do you need to raise and how will this money be used

As we are still students,  our university has provided us with a laboratory and equipment.  However, we also require a multitude of lab materials, chemicals and kits to conduct the experiment. This includes equipment to enable us to maintain our bacteria, genetically modify our bacteria and test our modifications. Furthermore, we need to order specific parts to create our experimental set up to test if our biofilm is able to generate blue energy.

Some of the Kit we need…

Plasmid isolation kit: 500 euro

DNA purification kit: 500 euro

DNA polymerase: 200 euro

Restriction enzymes: 500 euro

Ligase enzyme: 160 euro

Carrier: 100 euro

Other lab materials: 100 euro

With just 2000 euro (£1418) we would be able to cover the costs that are accompanied with the genetic modification of our Bacillus subtilis!

Who are the team involved?

Crowdfunding Blue Energy

Juul van Heek: I am the chairman of iGEM 2015 Groningen. My main task is to direct the wild ideas and plans of other team members in such a way that I ensure we will reach our goals. Next to handling the whip, I also enjoy handling my hockey stick and squash racket. In addition I sing in a band, travel to eastern europe during holidays and visit concerts of obscure bands and showcase festivals. So far, I finished my psychology and biology bachelor and aim to finish my biomedical sciences master this year.

Crowdfunding Science Blue Energy

Hi there, I am Wiebrand de Boer and vice-chair of iGEM Groningen. I study chemistry and molecular biology and will finish both bachelors next year. I try to generate loads of ideas and help as much as I can in the lab. My hobbies are reading, eating and cooking and going out.

Team member Crowdfunding Science Walacea

Hello, I am Timon. I don’t know anything about biology. I like music and mathematics

Crowdfunding Science Blue Energy

Bam! I am the team’s designer Randy. I can usually be found pacing around the room eating lettuce from a plastic bag. I don’t sleep.

Crowdfunding Science Blue Energy

I am Marieke and I am the lab-manager of iGEM Groningen 2015, organizing our laboratory so everyone can use what he or she needs. After I got my bachelor in applied science, I started the master Molecular Biology at the University at Groningen. iGEM is a challenging competition in synthetic biology, with iGEM Groningen I want to broaden my knowledge about synthetic biology

Crowdfunding Science Blue Energy

I am Jan Kramer, a Computer Science student. For this project I’m working on modeling the membrane on the computer to make predictions on how it will function. In addition I also help with building our website and other IT stuff. In my free time I enjoy playing games and reading.

Crowdfunding Science Blue Energy Walacea

My name is Hanneke Siebe and I am a second year Chemistry student. In the team I fulfil the task of secretary and am responsible for Human Practices and Outreach. In my free time I enjoy reading, listening to music, playing flute and learning in general. I like about iGEM how you can research into a subject of your own choice, involving creative input and working together with other people crazy enough to voluntarily spend the summer locked up in a lab. It would be awesome if we could make our idea work!

Walacea Crowdfunding Science Blue Energy

Hello everybody, I’m Bente. In the team I’m responsible for the lab work and the policy& practices. The coolest thing about iGEM is doing something different. As we all have different backgrounds we can learn lots of new things. I finished my bachelor in biomedical engineering this year and next year I will start with my masters. Beside my study I like to read and play soccer.

Crowdfunding Science Blue Energy Walacea

My name is Atze van Stralen and I am currently majoring in Molecular Life Sciences with a minor in Chemistry. Other than doing the research itself, I am also the treasurer for the iGEM team. When I am not working at the university, I like to read interesting stuff and meet people.

Crowdfunding Science Walacea Blue Energy

My name is Harm Ruesink. In this team i’m responsible for arranging the Boston trip, raising funds and doing lab work. I joined iGEM because the idea of creating and performing our own experiments in an multidisciplinary team appealed to me. Last year I finished my bachelor’s degree in Biology and right now I am doing a master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. In my spare time I enjoy running and binge-watch series!!

Why should you support this project?

This is a great opportunity to support early career scientists who plan to make serious headway on making blue energy more efficient and cheaper.  If their experiment is successful, this could mean less pollution and a drop in energy bills. This method of harnessing energy is in its infancy and this team are young pioneers in the field.  Also, you could be supporting them on their path to becoming iGEM champions!

Check out the various perks below and support the next wave of blue energy research…

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  • 3 Backers

    A virtual wave or our appreciation!

  • 2 Backers

    We will host a webinar, this will be a mini online lecture where we explain more about blue energy and our project and you will have the opportunity to ask questions.

  • Backers

    A seminar at our university, we will explain our research so far and why blue energy is important for the future of sustainability

  • 1 Backer

    A Limited Edition high resolution picture of our bacteria that is exclusive to supporters of this research + all of the above!

  • Backers

    We will recognise you as an official sponsor of Blue Energy research on our website and send you a certificate to say thank you + all of the above!

  • Backers

    A tour through the lab and a demo of science in action (this will be live so don't complain if things go wrong - you will be provided with safety goggles and a lab coat), followed by pizza and beer with the team (for two persons) + all of the above!

  • Backers

    We will come to you and give a seminar on blue energy and our research. This will be Holland only unless you can cover our travel expenses...

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General Overview

This Campaign has ended. No more pledges can be made.

  • 3 Backers

    A virtual wave or our appreciation!

  • 2 Backers

    We will host a webinar, this will be a mini online lecture where we explain more about blue energy and our project and you will have the opportunity to ask questions.

  • Backers

    A seminar at our university, we will explain our research so far and why blue energy is important for the future of sustainability

  • 1 Backer

    A Limited Edition high resolution picture of our bacteria that is exclusive to supporters of this research + all of the above!

  • Backers

    We will recognise you as an official sponsor of Blue Energy research on our website and send you a certificate to say thank you + all of the above!

  • Backers

    A tour through the lab and a demo of science in action (this will be live so don't complain if things go wrong - you will be provided with safety goggles and a lab coat), followed by pizza and beer with the team (for two persons) + all of the above!

  • Backers

    We will come to you and give a seminar on blue energy and our research. This will be Holland only unless you can cover our travel expenses...