Sample Article Critique on Microalgae as a Source of Biofuel


The TED Talk outlines the bold vision of producing fuel without using fossils by growing microalgae that produces biofuel. Jonathan Trent, a scientist and a specialist in biofuels,  delivered the talk. The proposed technology will be capable of sequestering carbon dioxide and cleaning wastewater that is discharged in main water bodies. Christened OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae), a project that is still at its piloting stage, can also be incorporated with other systems, including aquaculture, for farming marine animals, such as scallops and oysters. Additionally, the solar-powered offshore plastic pods can also incorporate photovoltaic panels for solar, wind, and wave energy production systems. Trent notes that the proposed system that is aimed at powering future cities and economies is suitable for areas, such as San Francisco Bay, San Diego Bay, Chesapeake Bay, and Mobile Bay. According to Jonathan Trent, the proposed project has a huge potential for cleansing wastewaters in the marine environments while also producing a significant percentage of the biodiesel that is needed by these cities (Trent 2012).


Jonathan’s proposed OMEGA project offers an innovative way of effective and environmentally-friendly wastewater management by proposing the use of microalgae that can thrive on the wastes in the waters discharged into water bodies. It is also an integrated project that incorporates alternative energy using biofuel-producing microalgae with the wind, wave, and solar energy production. Moreover, the project offers more than just wastewater management and efficient and safe energy production; it also provides revenue generation avenues, such as aquaculture facilities, which can serve as food production units (Trent 2012).

Critical Evaluation of the Author

Jonathan Trent, the author of this TED Talk, is an acclaimed scientist who specializes in developing innovative scientific biofuel ideas. He is a nanotechnology specialist at NASA, where he plays a leading role in using bacterial proteins to develop microscopic devices. For the past two decades, Trent has worked at NASA as an astrobiologist and lead scientist on its exobiology projects. Since 2002, he has served as an adjunct professor at the University of California Santa Cruz where he specializes in biomolecular engineering. He previously worked as a scientist at Argonne National Laboratory for five years before joining NASA. Trent holds three postdoctoral degrees in microbiology from Yale University’s School of Medicine, University of Copenhagen, and Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry. Another of his achievements is his Ph.D. degree that he received from Scripps Institution of Oceanography where he specialized in Biological Oceanography (Trent n.d; TED Talks n.d, a).

Jonathan Trent shared his ideas on TED Talks, a reputable organization with a rich history of conference and information sharing. Founded with the primary mission of changing the world through spreading ideas, TED Talks has dedicated itself to offering a platform for experts from different fields to share their ideas. It uses a free distribution approach since its founding in 1984. Furthermore, the organization offers a platform for experts to reach global communities in over 100 languages (TED Talks n.d, b). Trent uses the platform to reach the masses and attract global investors.

Despite pitching for the project, he falls short of outlining the environmental challenges that the microalgae developed specifically for this project may have on the environment in the event they find their way into the natural ecosystem. Additionally, he does not reveal the financial efficiency of the project; he only points out its operational efficiency.


Jonathan Trent willfully ignores to highlight the negative impact that the new project may potentially have on the environment, including the ethicality of introducing new organisms – microalgae into the ecosystem. He fails to mention that the introduction of a new species into the ecosystem may cause irreparable damage to the natural ecosystem. Moreover, he willfully fails to give a financial projection of the project despite clearly indicating the search for global investors to take an interest in the project rather than exclusively NASA (Trent 2012).




Trent J. (2012). Energy from floating algae pods [Internet]. TED Talks.  Retrieved from  

TED Talks. (N.d, a). Jonathan Trent: Scientist and biofuel guru. TED Talks. Retrieved from  

TED Talks. (N.d, b). About: Our organization. TED Talks. Retrieved from

Trent J. (N.d). Jonathan Trent. LinkedIn. Retrieved from   trent-7742555/