Our story began in the winter of 2016, when 14 young beating hearts first got together. The one thing that we are sure to own is ultimate enthusiasm. There is a strong urge of doing something big or meaningful that can make someone’s life easier or somewhere on the planet a better place. It has been a remarkable year for all the team members through the process of putting our ideas into practices. New things have been tried, difficulties have been overcome. And we really got some stories to share.
See what we've done in total !
- Visiting Guangdong Technology Research Center for Marine Algal Bio-engineering
- Visiting to Shenzhen City Canal Wide Industrial Gas Co.Ltd
- Tour to Space Institute of Southern China
- Tour to countryside of Hunan province
- Filming video in the village
- Lecture in YueLiangwan primary school
- A meet up with Russian scientist
- Attending Asia-Pacific conference
- Attending Central China iGEM Consortium
Visiting Guangdong Technology Research Center for Marine Algal Bio-engineering
Our project this year is about creating a better way for hydrogen production thus we want to put our project into actual use to help people. If we regard our lab-born project as a baby, our HPs is what it takes to grow up and grow strong. First we went to the green algae culture base to learn about the culture technique.
The full name of the base is Guangdong Technology Research Center for Marine Algal Bio-engineering, located by the coastline of Shenzhen, which covers an area of 2000 square meters. It’s main purpose is to provided midterm experiment for the algal research lab. We want to learn about the environment of large-scale algae cultivation for ourselves by visiting this base, and find the answers to some of our questions by interviewing the experts there. So that we can find the best growing condition for our chlamydomonas reinhardtti.
There are ten transparent glass jars in the base which hold green algae. There are several iron bars in it which can adjust and monitor the temperature and provide a constant temperature for the algae. There are also five large pools outdoor for further magnify of the algae, which are 20cm in length,4cm in width and 0.5cm in height. They used a special film at the bottom of the pool to dry out and collect the algae after it’s fully growth. They also put a waterwheel in the pool to fully stir the media.
The following questions were raised by the members of our team and answered by the experts at the base.
- Q1: Does the algae require strict growing conditions like the ones back in the lab? For example germ-free environment?
- A1: The algae that the base own so far are haematococcus and chrysophyceae. Both of the types doesn’t require very strict growing conditions. You just have to keep inletting oxygen in the media and keep it under a constant temperature. Germ is not really relevant because there is no nutrition for them to grow in our media. Germ usually grow in organics, but our media are only consist of pure water and inorganic, which is why there is no ways for the germs to reproduce massively.
- Q2: where does the algae come from and where do they go after it fully grow in this base?
- A2: The algae come from the lab originally. It will be collect and dry out and we will extract astaxanthin along with other chemical substance.
- Q3: If we put our project into industry production. What device do you suggest us to use?
- A3: My advice is that you shouldn’t grow your algae out in the open like we do. Maybe you will use an indoor pool or something. Make sure you pay attention to the oxygen level and temperature.
After visiting this base we believe there is no worries about putting our green algae into industry production.
Visiting to Shenzhen City Canal Wide Industrial Gas Co.Ltd
After we learn how to grow algae. It’s time to see how we are going to deal with the hydrogen that we produce. We went to a gas company called Shenzhen city canal wide industrial gas Co.Ltd. The company was found in 1999 and they are now be able to produce and sale hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, oxygen and other gases. After explaining our purpose we interviewed the manager of the company Mr. xie ze jie. Here are the content of our interview. SZU represent our team member and X represent the manager of the gas company Mr. xie.
- SZU: Good morning Mr. Xie . We are from Shenzhen university’s iGEM team. And iGEM is ……(here we omit the introduction of iGEM). Our project this year is about producing hydrogen. So can we ask you some questions relating to gas?
- X: Sure, I will definitely answer you if I know the answer. And hope it will be helpful.
- SZU: We are very grateful for that. So what technique do you usually use when producing gases?
- X: For some special gases like sulfur hexafluoride, we have special production line and more than one method. And this is the highlight of our company. And as for the hydrogen, we are using electrolysis of the water. And for helium, it is a kind of inert gas which makes it hard to produce. So we gain this kind of gases from steel-making enterprise.
- SZU: So how pure do your gases usually be?
- X: Higher than 99%. If it is not that good we won’t put it into storage and sale it to our customers.
- SZU: A lot of gases like hydrogen is kind of dangerous. So can you tell us what we should be paying attention to when storage and transfer our hydrogen?
- X: Yeah I see your concern. Safety is really an important question. Hydrogen won’t blow up if it is very pure but it can become very dangerous when meeting the fire. So the company that have these gases usually locate out of the city like we do. We can’t be around the crowd.
We have a pressure sensitive meter on every gas jar as you will see later. And if it is too high the switch will be open and little amount of gas will come out of the jar and letting it less possible to blow up if we keep the pressure steady.
You have to have fire extinguisher, alarm in you storehouse. Even the light has to be protect in a special way. And you also have to build lighting rod. There just can’t have any fire around your base.
As for transfer, the truck you use must have fire extinguisher, electrostatic belt, fire-proof covers and obvious sign saying that you are dangerous. And you mustn’t transfer hydrogen together with combustion adjutant like oxygen. And in China the drivers for gases will have to be trained and attend test before they do the work.
- SZU: Thank you so much. You have helped us on so many questions. Wish you best luck on your business.
After the interview we took a tour in the storehouse and we indeed saw fire precaution everywhere.
Tour to Space Institute of Southern China
We want to find out where can our project be used in the future. After considering about the multiple uses of our green algae: Producing oxygen for us to breathe; producing hydrogen which can be used as fuel; also can become food after cooked. We think it might be a highly useful resource to bring on the space ship. So we paid a visit to Space Institute of Southern China (Shenzhen). The first step into the space institute were like the Martian in real life. It has the biggest and most advanced space station in China and it is under experiment now. You can see a huge space station and four scientists have been living in it for 51 days. The experiment will last 180 days. Which means the four scientists will live the self-sufficient life in the space station for 180 days. We can see them through the one way window growing their vegetables. It was amazing!
After the tour we went to the conference room. Professor Ai gave us a presentation on the space station and we were amazed by how well-designed the space station is. Every single thing in the space station is chosen for particular reason. The energy chain is efficient. We also did a presentation on our project and asked the professors for some advice. According to them the things that we should do is to calculate the amount of input and output energy. And optimize our system based on that. If our system can be actually efficient after the optimition it might be included in the energy chain when they design other space stations. We are so happy that the bright future of our project was recognized by the professors yet there are many improvements to make.
Tour to countryside of Hunan province
We hope our hydrogen will not only be used in the space. It is so out of reach for the common people. We wish our project can actually be helping people and especially the ones who have desperate need for better energy. In china, the life and education are totally different between cities and countryside. We live in the city and we have all kinds of energies we need. We have endless electricity. Too much that sometimes we even don’t realize that we are wasting it. But the countryside is totally different. They have limited electricity only applied for a period of time in a day. And we really want to help them with our project. So we decided to pay a visit to the countryside of Hunan province. It took us a whole day to get to the village. Train first and then two buses, finally the motorcycle took us there. It is such a beautiful place, a wonderful place to live in if they have sufficient electricity. The nature here is untouched and you do have the sense of cleanness and innocent when you gradually getting close to this village. The people here are genuine. They don’t even speak mandarin but a local dialect. The smile on their faces are not forced but come from the heart. The day we went there was exactly the mid-autumn festival. It is a traditional Chinese festival which families should get together, have dinners and appreciate the bright full moon. They were happy about our visit, and invited us to their dinner. Everybody we encountered would want us to go to their houses to have dinner or at least a cup of tea. Although the night is full of happiness but they end it early for the electricity here is kind of luxury. We，on the other hand，couldn’t go to sleep but to think about how we can change their life by using our knowledge. You don’t need more than one night to discover the inconvenient of their life. If you want to take a shower you have to boil the water first and pour them into big buckets. And we are just not brave enough to go to the toilet at night. Because it is not the flush toilet we got. It is just simply a hole which have some wooden boards on it for you to stand on. Without light it is very easy to fall. And the above problem will be more severe when winter falls.
The Next day we did a questionnaire on what they think about our project and some other questions. Including what they think about GMO, how well do they know about energies. The details of the result will be shown in the engagement part. We also spent some time to design a fun booklet that holds simple knowledge of synthetic biology and other science knowledge to handout to them. Since most of them stopped their education at primary school, we want to teach them some simple and interesting science knowledge in this way and encourage the children to get more education.
At night we called the whole village together and had a public presentation on science. The knowledge we taught are useful so they listened very carefully. We told the children why they look like their parents. Most of the people in the village first heard about DNA. And they don’t believe giving birth to a boy is entirely depend on the father before we told them. And to make the knowledge simpler, we even draw a lot of cartoon figures before we went to the village to help them understand.
From the experience to the countryside we finally knew about the actual difficulties they are facing in their daily life， and that is exactly what we should try to solve for them.
Filming video in the village
After this series of HPs, our project has become a grown man. And thanks to all the suggestions and information we got from the HPs. We are be able to design an application model. This model shows how we can use our project to produce hydrogen and be used in the house as electricity. It is totally suitable for the villagers to use because they have the field. So we went to another village to film a video to show you how this works.
We sincerely wish after our efforts, and the help from more powerful social forces, using green algae to produce hydrogen and be used as electricity can realize as soon as possible. So that we can help those kind people in the village to finally have the steady source of electricity, while reducing the pollution by using environmental friendly energy.
Lecture in YueLiangwan primary school
Besides the science lecture we held in the village, we also went to YueLiangwan primary school. We did a presentation there on our project and other science knowledge. The students there did listened really carefully and asked us a lot of questions. We answered a lot for them. The presentation did brought up their interest for science. One of the students even told us firmly that she want to be a scientist in the future.
A meet up with Russian scientist
In order to upgrade ourselves we invited a Russian scientist to our school. We first did a presentation on our project for him. And then he asked some questions and gave us some advice. He also showed us what he was inventing, some simplify version of complicated laboratory equipment. The variance he made was very delicate. The huge expensive laboratory equipment can become easy to carry and cheap after his reconstruction. Learning from him really did widen our vision.
Attending Asia-Pacific conference
In August, 2016, SZU-China was invited to attend the Asia-Pacific conference held by team NCKU- Tainan. There were 20 universities took part in the conference from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
It was a great opportunity to improve ourselves. All the teams brought their posters and excellent presentations. When it’s our turn, we gave presentation for 20 minutes, then the Q and A lasted for more than 35 minutes. The questions raised by other teams were worth thinking and some of them were even challenging, which drive us to think and do more. The feedback really did helped us to make a better design for our project. A lot of them asked about what our device really looks like. The answer we could gave back then was really vague. But now we do have a video for that as you can see in our HP Gold page:
(SEE THE VIDEO)
Besides practicing our oral English and sharing science knowledge, making friends with other teams was the fun part you can never miss.
Attending Central China iGEM Consortium
In September, 2016, SZU-China took part in the Central China iGEM Consortium held by team SUN YAT-SEN UNIVERSITY. There were 28 teams from all over the China. There are presentation part and poster part of the consortium. The presentation was consist of 20 minutes presentation and 10 minutes Q&A. The suggestion given by the students and the teachers was useful. A lot of teams came to our poster to ask questions. We gained a lot of information by talking to other teams about their posters. The poster sharing can last forever if no one stop us, for the knowledge we exchange with various teams was really serviceable.