DIY ALGAE/Hydrogen Lunchbox Laboratory (working title).

Project presented during a session held at the Luminous Green Retreat, 28th of April 2007

Amy Franceschini

Collaboration between Futurefarmers + Jonathan Meuser (Ph.D. Candidate - Division of Environmental Science and Engineering Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401, Graduate Researcher - National Renewable Energy Lab, Golden, CO)

This is very exciting research and we hope we can produce this kit to share the knowledge and work that is being done in this realm!


Currently scientists are using algae to produce hydrogen and have discovered that it is a viable renewable energy form, in that, algae is everywhere and it can also be used to produce biodiesel. One of the main hurdles for the research is to find the most productive strains of algae. Since there are billions of strains, this task is monumental. So the Lunchbox Laboratory will be initiated as a distributed research project to schools internationally such that young scientists can do primary screening of a collection of algae strains such that only the most productive strains will be sent on to professional research institutions to be tested under more strenuous conditions.

This project is relevant for several reasons:

  • connects students internationally
  • empowers students by being involved in “real” research
  • points to the importance of shared/open/public research rather than privatized research
  • highlights innovative, renewable energy source

The Lunchbox Lab would serve as an educational module will link young scientists to international research.

We se there being several forms to convey this work:

  1. Lunchbox Lab
  2. Website
  3. Posters
  4. Short animation

Contents of the Lunchbox Lab:

  • 9 Algae Samples
  • 9 custom designed glass beakers (currently researching the viability of re-using old Crystal Geyser bottles)
  • Salts
  • Crystals
  • Micronutrients
  • Instructions Pamphlet
  • Controlled light source: 25 LED's
  • Controller to control light source
  • small aquarium pump
  • glass Pasteur pipet bubbler for water bottle
  • 1/4“ airline
  • valve gang
  • 0.2um air filters
Design of Lunchbox Lab

The design will mimic a lunch box. The bottom half will be light tight. The glass beakers will sit in holes such that the bottom half of the beaker will sit in darkness and the top will be visible and accessible to inject samples etc.

Design of main bioreactor

The bioreactor will be designed such that the cocktail of algae will sit in a large section in the dark and a small arm of the beaker will be visible and coated with an H2 sensor such that it will turn blue if it detects H2. These will be made of blown glass with stoppers and valves to control flow.

H2 sensor design

Custom H2 sensors made at CSM and tested on cells in their lab. This coating can be put on any glass surface. For our kit I was thinking that we would coat the end of a glass:glass stopper fitting that would plug into the flask. The sensor can be regenerated simply by detaching it from the reactor and allowing it to react with O2. Of course, the sensors will not turn blue when any oxygen at all is present, so we will have to use a system to “scrub” the – we will use a glucose:glucose oxidase system to scrub oxygen out. Basically, the “student” would add sugar and an enzyme, glucose oxidase, (available cheaply by the gram) to consume all the oxygen in the reactor.


We would like to create a simple website to accompany this project where a database would live that would log all the strains of algae tested and their results.

What do we need?

Partners and funding….


  • luminous/hydrogen_lunchbox_laboratory.txt
  • Last modified: 2008-01-22 04:46
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