Algae scrubber could improve Midwestern waterways and produce biofuel

Good Friday afternoon, everyone. Sunday is the 23rd America Recycles Day, when businesses, governments, and individuals recognize the importance of recycling, commit to improving their recycling practices, and promote recycling education. Educational and recognition events are taking place across the Midwest. For example, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a proclamation noting growth in the state’s recycling rate; Kane County, Illinois, announced expanded recycling center services; the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources granted excellence awards to 15 public and private recycling programs; and the recycling center in Emmet County, Michigan, is in the spotlight for adding sorting robots to its operation. I encourage you to take a moment on Sunday to evaluate your recycling and reuse habits and see if there is room for improvement. I certainly will!

Now, today’s headlines.

Lake Erie harmful algal bloom photo by NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

🌱 BIOFUEL: A Western Michigan University chemist believes an algal turf scrubber could fix the hazardous algal bloom issue that plagues the Great Lakes and other Midwestern waterways. The scrubber filters the algae out of the water and it is then used as a biofuel. The chemist says algae is 12 times more productive as an ethanol-based fuel than other sources such as corn, soybeans, or switchgrass. Major barriers to implementing this technology are the high cost and freshwater freezing in cold weather.

🚙 TRANSPORTATION: President-elect Joe Biden’s clean energy platform focuses heavily on clean transportation innovations such as e-scooters and EVs, and it’s good news for transportation startups such as Michigan-based electric truck startup Rivian, according to Crunchbase.

⚙️ MANUFACTURING: The United States Air Force Research Laboratory awarded a $13.7 million contract to the National Institute of Aviation Research at Wichita State University to extend a manufacturing program for sustainable and affordable composites.


  • Through a partnership with software and services tech company Trimble, the Illinois Institute of Technology will create a state-of-the-art technology lab that will expand the university's work in civil, architectural, and environmental engineering. The lab will include cutting-edge technologies to improve students’ hands-on learning.

  • Seattle-based apprenticeship program Apprenti is expanding into the Midwest with partnerships to provide tech apprenticeships in Kansas City and Wisconsin, reports the Milwaukee Business Journal and the KC Tech Council.

🏆 HONORS: Chicago Area Clean Cities is accepting nominations for the 2020 Clean Fuels Champion Award. Nominations are due Dec. 11.

💻 EVENT: The fifth annual University of Minnesota Women Innovators Conference will take place on Monday (Nov. 16).

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