Preparation and Analysis of Diatom Frustules for Identification and Catalyst Substrate Preparation

Hi, I’m Neal Parker and I’m going to be working with Dr. Cooke in the physics department this summer.  The overall goal of this project is to remove excess nutrients and reverse eutrophication through the use of algae while also exploring the possibility of using these particular filamentous diatoms in fuel and catalytic applications.  Most biofuels being produced take more materials and energy to produce than they are worth.  Finding (or developing) an algal species that produces large amounts of combustible lipids and can be grown naturally and easily is at the forefront of biofuel research.  The algae also have a noncombustible silicon dioxide frustule (like a glass exoskeleton) that is left after burning.  Some of these structures are particularly interesting in that they have a very high surface area to mass ratio and regular sieve pattern.  The goal is to coat these structures with gold or platinum to make high-performance catalysts.  I will be refining and standardizing a method for cleaning these structures to remove organic matter while keeping them intact and then having the species/structure identified through electron microscopy.  I will also be involved with making caloric measurements of the algae to determine how much energy is produced when they are burned.  The eventual goal of this would be to introduce colonies of algae into the Chesapeake Bay that would bio-remediate the area while providing a commercial interest in the form of fuel and catalyst production.