Jan 25, 2022

Harvesting wild algae to make paper

Posted by in category: education

Circa 2019

Annually for three years, The Lemelson Foundation will give $100 awards to outstanding inventors in up to 270 Society Affiliate Fairs with middle school participants around the country. The prize was specially created to reward young people whose projects exemplify the ideals of inventive thinking by identifying a challenge in their community and creating solutions that will improve lives.

Invasive algae are often found in bodies of water such as lakes and ponds, but can it be used as paper? Seventh-graders, Wyatt Vick and Charley Clyne, from Zane Trace Middle School in Chillicothe, Ohio, set out to answer that question with their project, “Algae Paper,” eventually earning them the Lemelson Early Inventor Prize.

The idea to investigate algae as a possible paper source came to Wyatt and Charley one day while fishing. “The water level had gone down and we saw dry algae around the edges of the pond—it resembled paper. I could even fold an origami crane out of it,” said Wyatt. “There have been a few studies about the use of algae as paper, but most of what we found was about using red algae specifically for paper products, but they performed poorly in tests.”

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