OMEGA Project (2009-2012)


OMEGA Project 2009-2012

OMEGA System
Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (OMEGA) is an innovative method to grow algae, clean wastewater, capture carbon dioxide and to ultimately produce biofuel without competing with agriculture for water, fertilizer or land.

NASA’s OMEGA system consists of large flexible plastic tubes, called photobioreactors. Floating in seawater, the photobioreactors contain freshwater algae growing in wastewater. These algae are among the fastest growing plants on Earth.

The algae use energy from the sun, carbon dioxide and nutrients from the wastewater to produce biomass that can be converted into biofuels as well as other useful products such as fertilizer and animal food. The algae clean the wastewater by removing nutrients that otherwise would contribute to marine deadzone formation.

NASA’s project goals are to investigate the technical feasibility of a unique floating algae cultivation system and prepare the way for commercial applications. Research by scientists and engineers has demonstrated that OMEGA is an effective way to grow microalgae and treat wastewater on a small scale.

The OMEGA system is being investigated by NASA as an alternative way to produce aviation fuels. Potential implications of replacing fossil fuels include reducing the release of green house gases, decreasing ocean acidification, and enhancing national security.

News and Features

The NASA OMEGA floating photobioreactor prototype in a seawater tank at the Southeast wastewater treatment plant in San Francisco. The four flexible plastic tubes are filled with algae and wastewater, which circulates through the system.

NASA Showcases Method To Grow Algae-Based Biofuels

NASA showcased the latest research on a method to grow algae, clean wastewater, capture carbon dioxide and ultimately produce feedstock for refining biofuels.

NASA Invites Media To Tour Wastewater Biofuels Project

Reporters are invited to attend a one-hour guided tour of NASA’s Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae (OMEGA) system on April 17, 2012.

Algae bloom in the Baltic Sea.

NASA Develops Algae Bioreactor as a Sustainable Energy Source

As a clean energy alternative, NASA invented an algae photo-bioreactor that grows algae in municipal wastewater to produce biofuel and a variety of other products.

Plastic bags with semi-permeable membranes allow fresh water to flow out into the ocean, while retaining the algae and nutrients.

NASA Envisions "Clean Energy" From Algae Grown in Waste Water

When astronauts go into space, their living quarters on a spaceship require careful planning and management of limited resources, which is what inspired the project called "Sustainable Energy for Spaceship Earth.".


Page Last Updated: August 20th, 2014
Page Editor: Jerry Colen