A Life Cycle Assessment of a Self-Sustainable Renewable Energy Ecosystem

Kimberlin Schnittker cleans and monitors the six ecosystems for optimal growth of halophytes (salt-tolerant plants) used for the creation of biofuels. Image Credit: NASA Glenn/Tamaera McDowell.

Kimberlin Schnittker cleans and monitors the six ecosystems for optimal growth of halophytes (salt-tolerant plants) used for the creation of biofuels. Image Credit: NASA Glenn/Tamaera McDowell.

Student: Kimberlin Schnittker
University of Texas at El Paso

Major: Metallurgical and Materials Engineering

Degree Level: Master of Science

Internship Site: NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

Mentor: Dr. Bilal Mark McDowell Bomani

Abstract: The sustainability of aviation directly depends on the availability of environmentally responsible fuel. With the growing gap between petroleum production and demand, increasing prices, carbon emissions, mounting environmental regulations, and the limited concentration of known fuel reserves in politically unstable regions, biofuels are considered a viable alternative to securing the future of aviation. Biofuels are a renewable energy source, which could be customized to meet specific fuel needs. NASA GRC developed the GreenLab Research Facility to study two principal sources of biofuels: arid land halophytes (salt-tolerant plants) and sea water algae. Through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the GreenLab, we investigated the benefits and contributions to motivating the next generation in STEM-related fields that the facility and its research offer outweighs the cost of running the program every year. We also looked into the optimization of Chaetomorpha sp. macro-algae by studying its growth under four different conditions. Results showed that a direct light source and some dirt accumulation lead to more successful growth of Chaetomorpha sp. macro-algae.

* If you are having trouble viewing this poster, please download it as a pdf.