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Kaitlyn Sniffen

Kaitlyn Sniffen

Kaitlyn Sniffen

Drexel University, Ph.D.
PTR Baler Scholar 2012

Using Algae as a Biomass for Biofuel

Project Description:
Currently, one of the major difficulties with producing biofuels is keeping production values economically competitive with current oil prices. One way of keeping these prices down is to couple biomass production with a preexisting system or infrastructure. Kaitlyn is researching the feasibility of growing algae as a biomass in naturally nutrient rich landfill leachate. Alga consume the high nitrogen and phosphorus content commonly found in leachate for normal cell growth. In addition, some algae strains have been seen to not only tolerate but adsorb heavy metals and other contaminants found in leachate.

Landfills have to pay thousands of dollars per day to remove and treat the leachate produced. Coupling these systems would eliminate costs of expensive growth media for the algae biomass production, as well as reduce or eliminate the cost associated with treating the leachate waste. In addition to these cost savings, the final product of the algae biomass would be harvested for conversion to biofuels.

Kaitlyn grew up in a small farm town in northern New Jersey, and spent most of her summers whitewater kayaking, sailing and camping in the Pocono Mountains.  She has also spent a lot of time traveling, including working on organic farms and learning about ecosystems throughout the world. These experiences have played a major role in her interest in natural and sustainable energy.

Kaitlyn received her Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst where her research focused on the fate of gold nanoparticles in aquatic environments. After graduating she worked at Dow Chemical – Electronic Materials developing chemistries for copper plating silicon semiconductors. Kaitlyn left Dow to pursue her true interest in biofuel and started at Drexel University in Philadelphia in the spring of 2012 where she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in environmental engineering.  She works with Mira Olsen (a previous EREF scholar) in evaluating the feasibility of using landfill leachate as the nutrient source for algae biomass that could then be used to produce biofuel.