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Power Biotech Earth Technology

15-Year-Old Invents Algae-Powered Energy System 230

Mike writes "Signaling a bright future for sustainable energy, 15-year-old Javier Fernandez-Han has created a remarkable algae-powered energy system that is capable of producing food and fuel, treating waste, containing greenhouse gases, and releasing oxygen. Dubbed the VERSATILE system, the project recently netted him a $20,000 scholarship for winning this year's Invent Your World Challenge."
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15-Year-Old Invents Algae-Powered Energy System

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Making the rest of us look bad and all.
    • Prodigies? I'm pretty sure algae invented it.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:56PM (#28461765)

      What are you talking about? The competition was "Invent Your World Challenge." Kid makes an energy system. Missed the mark entirely: algae power is not a world.

      Kid needs to pay more attention next time.

      • really... I mean where the pizza oven or stall for the goat?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ex-MislTech ( 557759 )

        Its worse than that, he just copied some Phds work off youtube: []

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wealthychef ( 584778 )
          Also, it has not been built yet, so "created" is too strong a word. He more like "imagined" or "designed" it. Not to say it's not impressive for a 15 year old, but it's not the salvation of the world.
          • Oh please we all know he just looked under his bed for something at the last minute and scraped that off.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

            Exactly. I did some designs for algae-powered energy generation when I was about that age. It's not impressive, because the concept is obvious. Algae reproduce very quickly given the right environment and is a cheap way of generating solar power. Algae blooms are caused by sewage getting in to the water supply, so feeding it with animal (including human) waste is obvious.

            Algae power is not a scientific problem, it is an engineering one. The test of any solution to an engineering problem is much simp

        • by UttBuggly ( 871776 ) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @01:25AM (#28463083)

          Its worse than that, he just copied some Phds work off youtube:

          From reading TFA, I'd say the kid did a little more than copy someone's work. A lot of work has been done with algae, so neither one should claim to have invented the idea of extracting fuel from it. What I see is that they invented scalable systems for doing it cheaply.

          Of the two, the kid's is theoretically "better" IMO. His vision of intended use in the 3rd world is reason enough. Even if the real cost is more like $2000 instead of $200, it's good. Just get Sally Struthers to cry on TV to raise the money.

          Of course, until he or someone actually builds a working model, it's just a neat idea. Certainly not the 2nd coming of Da Vinci or Einstein.

      • Are you saying you'll flunk us if we don't change the world?

        (from 'Pay it forward')

  • Vapourware (Score:4, Informative)

    by BierGuzzl ( 92635 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @08:18PM (#28461031)

    FTA: "The algae-powered system hasnâ(TM)t yet been built, however, and skeptics will remain until it is. Even if FernÃndez-Hanâ(TM)s design doesnâ(TM)t pan out as planned, weâ(TM)re thoroughly impressed by his innovative spirit."

  • "Play pump" (Score:5, Informative)

    by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @08:20PM (#28461051) Journal

    A pump powered by children playing? I did a double take when I saw that. Then there was a link to it []. I tip my hat to the person who thought of that. Bloody ingenious.

    • Re:"Play pump" (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @08:35PM (#28461177)

      When does "play pump" end and "child labor" begin?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GaryOlson ( 737642 )
        When it stops being an activity which can create mischief --
        If we jump hard enough in unison can we create a big enough spark to ignite the methane?!
        to a chore --
        You kids won't get your allowance if you don't generate at least 5KW of power this week!
      • by stuboogie ( 900470 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:55PM (#28461759)
        Ask the kids performing "arts and crafts" at the Nike factories.
        • I've always wondered, as I've absolutely no knowledge of the subject, if Nike is exploiting child labour or is Nike providing shelter and entertainment for children in impoverished areas? Do the kids have a play area to relax in? Are they in education normally, or is this inaccessible? Are Nike providing education for them if it's not readily available?

          I'm reminded of the scene in Baseketball when Trey and Matt's company is blackmailed for hiring child labour; They fly over and find out it's true, and tota
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by catmistake ( 814204 )
      play pump... a... play... pump.... you mean masterbation could solve our energy crisis? ... did NOT see that comeing...
      • Yeah, I didn't click the link. I don't want to risk a site with photo's of children using a "Play Pump".

        I'm too pretty to go to prison.

    • Swing [] and Seesaw. []

    • Re:"Play pump" (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @10:11PM (#28461869) Homepage Journal

      Seems to me they could put a donkey on a tether. The pumping capacity would probably be more reliable. Kids are kids, after all. For a week, maybe even a month, that merry go round will be busy during all daylight hours. After that, it'll be hit or miss, now and then. I mean, really. If I actually WANT a kid to eat ice cream, he isn't going to want any. If I WANT him to eat candy, he's going to be suspicious. Ask any parent.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by houghi ( 78078 )

        If I actually WANT a kid to eat ice cream, he isn't going to want any. If I WANT him to eat candy, he's going to be suspicious. Ask any parent.Just tell them they are not allowed to play with it from 14:00 to 18:00.

      • by dzfoo ( 772245 )

        But what if you don't have and can't afford a donkey? Children on the other hand, are everywhere! Just tether them to the pump, et voilá.


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by noidentity ( 188756 )
      That's amazing that even where water must be pumped by children on a merry-go-round, there is a big billboard with an advertisement []. Sickening.
      • by beckett ( 27524 )

        Those photos were taken in the Democratic Republic of DeBeers though so the billboard is functional: providing shade and cover for the "Freedom Snipers".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Zouden ( 232738 )

        The advertising supports the pump. Read the article.

      • I'm not sure about the yellow board, but the white board is information on proper hygiene, buy the look of it. Properly washing your hands seems to be the major feature.

        You don't think, in an area where "safe water" pretty much means "If you didn't just pass, you can drink it"*, kids need to know this information?

        * Speculation, but I'm guessing I'm not far off the mark if they need a pump like this.

        FYI the article states that half of the four-sided boards are for local company advertisments, the other h
    • Soon to be renounced by leftist groups as 'child slavery', of course :P

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @08:20PM (#28461055)

    An anaerobic digester for sewage and food scraps

    Isn't that basically what Cowboy Neal is?

  • Farming is a noble occupation, but if you have to spend time tending a biological system when a chemical system will work flawlessly without any monitoring, well, that's why we make chemical systems instead of just using biological ones.

  • Mutant! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @08:27PM (#28461109) Homepage Journal
    This kid is obviously the love child of Jon Katz and Natalie Portman.
  • by EkriirkE ( 1075937 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @08:28PM (#28461119) Homepage
    "The algae-powered system hasnâ(TM)t yet been built..."
  • There's only (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @08:29PM (#28461123)

    One small caveat:

          "The algae-powered system hasn't yet been built, however..."

          Another minor little detail:

          "and the PlayPump, which uses energy derived from children playing to power the system."

          I assume the children will volunteer to "play" at this "play pump" which I bet will be much more fascinating than say, Nintendo or beating up on little Timmy, or whatever their regular activities are.

          Or is this a device in fact powered by child labor? Perhaps it will go over big in China and Malaysia.

  • He's a 15yo boy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhsx ( 458600 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @08:46PM (#28461267)
    There are 5 replies above my threshold. All of them are ripping this apart as fancy. He's a 15-year old kid who took a lot of interesting technologies and thought of a way to chain them together to achieve a net benefit. What did you guys do? You're assholes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

      Who gives a rip if it was thought up by a 15 year old boy? His age doesn't change the facts of the matter one bit.

    • chain them together to achieve a net benefit.

      Throw linux and a toaster into that chain and we're on board.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:31PM (#28461565)

      I'm 17 and I don't consider this a huge feat.

      You know those blogs that do nothing but push glossy "concept" renders of future products? Those flexible curved solar powered laptops with a few multitouch screens thrown in for laughs? I am sure I am not alone in that I die a little inside when I see the comments praising them. All I am thinking is "How are you supposed to stick a curved laptop into a backpack?".

      This is like that except on an even greater scale. You throw in a few buzz words, some hokey pokey vaporware and make a nice powerpoint presentation of something neither plausible nor useful.

      My grade 6 science project involved keeping a single fish alive for a few months in a fish tank without any filtration or water changes by growing terrestrial plants in the same water. Sure, I forgot to use the word "bioreactor" and I didn't have any flowcharts but on the other hand I actually made something that worked.

      You say he "Took a lot of interesting technologies and chained them together", but how is this remarkable in any way? There is no innovation here, just a giant mess of ideas, some practical, most not (Using children to power a pump as a long term solution? Really?).

      Just another life lesson: Being practical gets you a plastic medal, spooning bullshit makes you rich. (But I'll be honest, I already knew that)
      The only genius here is that he figured out you can get twenty thousand dollars for this drivel.

      • Bitter much?

        If you'd have thought of it, you'd be laughing all the way to the bank. Too bad your fish wasn't worth $20k, eh?
    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2009 @09:43PM (#28461667) Journal
      Mainly because I am more interested in the technology, and really don't care how old the guy is. If it works, that's great! I don't really care if the guy who did it is 5 years old or 60. If it doesn't work......then it's just another non-starter technology that made it to the front page of slashdot.

      Besides, when was the last time you saw a slashdot discussion where everyone wasn't criticizing everyone else? It's kind of our default mode, unfortunately.
    • by dzfoo ( 772245 )

      We criticize his idea, you know, scientific method and all that.


  • Since his system uses algae, I bet my fish tank could feed and power a small country.
    • Fish tank? Fuck that, I've got a swimming pool, and I'll be damned if I didn't come home from vacation last weekend and find it glowing green like a vat of toxic waste. I had no idea there were options other than dumping several pounds of chlorine in the pool.

  • posting about their kids on /. ....
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Eventually, this kid will become a patent attorney like the rest of them.

    • by thesp ( 307649 ) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @02:31AM (#28463419)
      I am a patent attorney [obligatory "you insensitive clod"] before the British and European Patent Offices. Please excuse the slightly off-topic comment, but I'm not sure we're all particularly evil. I see a lot of patent-attorney bashing here on Slashdot. Mostly what we actually do is provide the best possible advice to our clients based on the current state of the law, and argue their case for them in what has evolved to be a very complex legal system. At the same time, we have a fun job which involves dealing with five or so different technologies on our desks on a daily basis, getting up to speed with them quickly and then thinking up detailed and powerful legal and technical arguments to deploy as to why our client's technology might just be worth the grant of a 20-year monopoly, or conversely, why our client's competitor's technology isn't. Most of us have higher technical qualifications, as well as our legal training. In many ways, it's a geek's dream...

      Now, the people to whinge about are a) the legislators, and b) the patent offices themselves, who don't always do the best job of examining the patent applications as rigorously as they could. At least the situation is a bit better here in the EU than in the States, though, where as soon as a patent examiner gets any good he goes and qualifies as an attorney...
      • I don't think I've seen any other patent attorney bashing on Slashdot before. I was considering it as a career before I went to university and did an internship in that direction, and it seems like a great profession for geeks. The only downside is that you have to spend all of your time interacting with a fundamentally broken system which, I discovered, was not something I wanted to put up with. Once we've got some major reforms to the current IP system (not just patents, although they've been in need o
        • The only downside is that you have to spend all of your time interacting with a fundamentally broken system which, I discovered, was not something I wanted to put up with.

          I think you've just described the common denominator underlying the frustrations of every single major profession.

      • I am a patent attorney...

        I got this far, and then the whole screen turned into blood-red text saying "REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM"

  • I think God Neptune already holds a patent on that one.
  • The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.

    Karl Marx (1845)

    • Enterprising kids build things. Mediocre kids create marketing materials. Below-average adults give scholarships to mediocre kids. I don't think we're pooh-poohing the kid; I'd be surprised if a few hundred Slashdotters didn't design something similar at the same ages, but didn't think we should be rewarded for it because we didn't solve the massive engineering problems in building such a system (and neither did this kid). We're decrying the kind of society that rewards this more than building things th
  • Were are my algae-powered overlords! I want my overlords! Now, you insensitive clods! *cries*

    1. a beowulf-cluster of
    2. soviet-russian transparent pink
    3. unicorn pony sharks, that must be new here, run Linux, have frickin' laser-beams on their horns
    4. ...
    5. and give me PROFIT,
    while you're at it?

    • Were are my algae-powered overlords! I want my overlords! Now, you insensitive clods! *weeeeeep*

      Fixed that for you! :)

  • True to form to our educational system, he got the same blue ribbon for "participation", along with all the other hundreds of "winners".


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