OMEGA for Sustainable Aviation Biofuels

Grant #: NNX12AC47A
Senior Scientist: Hiromi Kagawa

Given NASA’s long-term mission to explore and ultimately colonize other planets, along with NASA’s fundamental commitment to protect and serve the home planet, benefit from current research and developments in alternative (non-fossil fuel) energy.  This R&D promises to provide sustainable energy sources that will be needed for NASA’s long-term missions, and implementing a global transition from fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of energy requires the kind of science and engineering oversight that NASA can potentially provide. As “green” technologies gain momentum, the world is looking to the US for leadership, and California—or more specifically Silicon Valley—for inspiration. NASA Ames is therefore positioned to play a role in green R&D that has the ability to impact the future of NASA and perhaps the future of the world.  In anticipation of Ames’ potential leadership role, we propose to intensify and expand current Center research efforts in green technologies, with an emphasis on biofuels. 


We propose to investigate the most promising current biofuel feedstocks: microalgae. Microalgae are traditional grown in shallow circulating channels called “raceways” or in transparent enclosures known as photo-bioreactors (PBRs).  To produce biofuels, thousands of acres of raceways and tens of thousands of PBRs will be required.  To avoid competing with agriculture for land, raceways and PBRs can be located offshore and to avoid using water and fertilizer, they can use domestic wastewater from cities. This offshore wastewater system under development at NASA is called OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae).