Hub connects bright minds in pursuit of a better planet

Oct 30, 2021 by Christine Davis

Since the Marine Research Hub Summit was a breakfast event at FLIBS, here’s some food for thought. Think about an alternative energy source that uses the power of water to generate electricity. Digest the idea of cleaning out gooey bad stuff in the ocean with a giant bubble machine. Here’s a nourishing solution to protecting the coastline ecosystems: build a cement structure spiked with coral that disperses a wave, rather than harmfully shoving it around.

These were highlights in presentations made by Gabriel Alsenas, the director of the Southeast National Marine Renewal Energy Center at Florida Atlantic University; Dr. Charles Gregory, CEO of Clean Waterways; and Dr. Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, assistant professor at the University of Miami.

Gabriel Alsenas is part of a group focused on capturing the power of the Gulfstream, which he calls a 24-7 resource, to provide electricity to South Florida communities. “It’s transporting a significant amount of warm water, and it speeds up in the summer. This is a challenging [concept], but worth looking at as a pathway.”

Now, about the bubbles. Dr. Charles Gregory explains that the protein skimmer machines made by Clean Waterway inject bubbles into a water column, and the sticky stuff (nitrogen, phosphorus and the stuff that kills fish) sticks to the bubbles and floats up, where the skimmers skim it out. It’s a process used for whale and shark tanks that Clean Waterways scaled up for waterways.

For crew, he said, the technology enables a healthy working environment. “That dirty film gets on the ropes and deck, and bacteria is everywhere. This remediates dangerous pollutants.”

Dr. Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos talked about Seahive, an eco-friendly shoreline protection system. “My goal represents the shipping paradigm, trying to merge ecology and engineering to design structures that protect us and also create habitat,” Barbarigos said. “Crew love the water. They want to see life in the water.” If this process proves to be successful, in the future, “crew can enjoy their lifestyle similarly, if not better, than they do now.”

And for a surprise finale, Nicholas Flanders, co-founder and CEO of Twelve, gave a five-minute impromptu talk about products Twelve recently delivered using its technology.

To crew, he says: “At Twelve, specifically, we make many different things out of CO2 that are currently made from oil. For example, we just made diesel fuel out of CO2, water and solar energy. So, you could run a ship with zero carbon emissions, and it would have the same performance as you have now.”

MARINE RESEARCH HUB OF SOUTH FLORIDA
Founding members of the nonprofit Marine Research Hub of South Florida include MIASF, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University and the University of Miami. The Marine Research Hub’s objective is to foster collaboration among research, education, business, and economic development organizations to establish the region as a global leader in oceanographic research.

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