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NASA shows off new algae farming technique for making biofuel
http://phys.org ^ | 04-16-2012 | Bob Yirka

Posted on 04/16/2012 7:11:14 AM PDT by Red Badger

NASA is clearly looking far into the future for a way to handle both human waste and a need for fuel on either long space flights or when attempting to colonize another planet. To that end, they’ve assigned life support engineer Jonathan Trent the task of coming up with a way to use algae to solve both problems at once. His solution is to use plastic bags floating in seawater as small bioreactors, containing wastewater, sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow algae that can be used as a means to create biofuel.

The whole thing is called Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae or more concisely, OMEGA, and will be demonstrated to reporters at one of San Francisco’s public utilities water pollution control plants tomorrow and is the culmination of $10 million worth of research.

The idea is more practical than revolutionary says Trent, who has spoken to reporters already about the project. The idea was to figure out a way to create an algae farm that could be placed close to a waste treatment facility, without taking up a bunch of land. That’s when he came up with idea of using plastic bags floating in the ocean. Conventional systems use large pools of water set up on dry land. In the test facility, each bag is four meters long and has been seeded with wastewater and carbon dioxide. Sunlight makes its way through the clear plastic as the bags float on seawater, which not only serves as a place for the bags to reside, but also help keep the algae cool, which must be done mechanically in other facilities. The algae eat the wastewater and grow until the bag is filled, at which point it is removed to be used for making biofuel.

Reports thus far show that algae farms set up in this manner would be capable of producing over two and a half million gallons of fuel annually in an area just under two square miles.

Trent says with a real farm, the carbon dioxide come could from nearby power plants, helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the whole process. Not helping, on the other hand, is that the whole scheme is based on petroleum based plastic bags, which in addition to their inherent carbon footprint would also have to be disposed of once a year as they degrade in saltwater. Trent suggests that California farmer’s could use them as field cover instead of the large tarps they currently use. He also says that if one or more of the bags should break, like say in a storm, there is no worry as the algae would die in the seawater and the wastewater released would be the same as wastewater facilities such as those in San Francisco already pump into the bay.

At this point it seems clear that a new type of plastic will need to be developed for the project to become viable, especially if it is to be ported to space exploration applications at some point; perhaps one made from biodegradable material so that it could be grown along the way, and then could be used as fertilizer afterwards.

More information: Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (OMEGA) project: http://www.nasa.go … A/index.html


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government; Technical
KEYWORDS: automobile; biodiesel; biofuel; energy; sourcetitlenoturl
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Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae (OMEGA) is an innovative method to grow algae, clean wastewater, capture carbon dioxide and ultimately produce biofuel. Using treated sewage as a growth medium, OMEGA would not compete 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.

Wastewater with oil-producing algae circulate through photobioreactors (green tubes) floating in a seawater tank at the San Francisco Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant, where NASA has set up one of its OMEGA research facilities.

Reports thus far show that algae farms set up in this manner would be capable of producing over two and a half million gallons of fuel annually in an area just under two square miles.

At that rate, we'll need to use the entire surface of all the oceans on earth just to break even.........

1 posted on 04/16/2012 7:11:23 AM PDT by Red Badger
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To: Red Badger

I heard they doubled the total fuel they produced from 50ml to 100ml.
/sarc


2 posted on 04/16/2012 7:12:42 AM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter knows whom he's working for)
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To: sully777; vigl; Cagey; Abathar; A. Patriot; B Knotts; getsoutalive; muleskinner; sausageseller; ...

Biofuel ping!............


3 posted on 04/16/2012 7:12:42 AM PDT by Red Badger (Think logically. Act normally.................)
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To: Red Badger

Takes more energy to produce that stuff and it’s been proven it is a pollutant. Good grief! The US is awash in oil and we have to resort to this? At one time we were an oil exporting country. Didn’t the oil embargo of the Seventies during Carter show the need for developing our own resources? Every president since has done absolutely nothing. Now we have Obamalamadingdong.


4 posted on 04/16/2012 7:15:59 AM PDT by SkyDancer ("Talent Without Ambition Is Sad - Ambition Without Talent Is Worse")
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To: SkyDancer

This another scam that will come to pass. Start using our natural resources instead of this pie in the sky crap.


5 posted on 04/16/2012 7:22:59 AM PDT by Busko
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To: Red Badger
At that rate, we'll need to use the entire surface of all the oceans on earth ...

Oh No! Where will we put the offshore windfarms?

6 posted on 04/16/2012 7:26:25 AM PDT by Paine in the Neck (Romney's judicial appointments were more radical than Obama's)
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To: Red Badger
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over.

I remember when NASA looked to the heavens, and launched rockets to other celestial bodies.

Now they sit around a pond, poking at the scum with a stick.

7 posted on 04/16/2012 7:29:27 AM PDT by Lazamataz (Shut up and drill.)
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To: Red Badger

Well, as you know, most new technologies underperform at the outset, but get better over time. At least this is in the right general direction, algae is loaded with oil content but the trick is to find a way to grew and harvest it essentially for free, with close to zero input costs.


8 posted on 04/16/2012 7:30:48 AM PDT by bigbob
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To: SkyDancer

Just because the earth has had a few billion years to develop the fuel that’s in the ground, doesn’t mean that it’s cheaper. All we are doing is acting like we have a trust fund, in terms of how we use it.

At some point, even if that point is 500 years in the future, we will have to consider alternatives. I’d rather have 500 years of technology and knowledge behind us on how to develop those alternatives then wait until we need it and then start to consider them.

I do agree with you that it’s more pie in the sky at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it will always be so.


9 posted on 04/16/2012 7:31:32 AM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
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To: Red Badger

to create oilgae:

1. You need the bottom of the pool sealed (like a swimming pool)
2. You need the top covered to prevent foreign plants from sprouting.
3. You need 350 gallons of water to create one gallon of oilgae.


10 posted on 04/16/2012 7:32:32 AM PDT by MNDude
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To: Red Badger

All of this pie in the sky alternative stuff would be a whole lot more impressive, if it weren’t pie in the sky stuff.

Offer it at the corner filling station, and you’ve got something.

Until then, it’s vaporware.


11 posted on 04/16/2012 7:34:12 AM PDT by Cringing Negativism Network (Is Buffett's comfort with "Obama" simply comfort with the word "Omaha" his home and birthplace?)
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To: Jonty30

I’d hate to have it come down to a panic thing. Those people who say no more oil don’t realize what other products come from oil. Out of a barrel of oil you get just two gallons of gasoline. Everything from oil is taken out and what’s left you pave roads with it. Maybe the technology isn’t around right now to produce super batteries for cars and trucks that allow them to go four hundred miles on a ten minute or less charge. But perhaps in the future there will be.


12 posted on 04/16/2012 7:40:18 AM PDT by SkyDancer ("Talent Without Ambition Is Sad - Ambition Without Talent Is Worse")
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To: Red Badger

And just how much taxpayer money will be flushed down this algae hole?...


13 posted on 04/16/2012 7:41:00 AM PDT by AngelesCrestHighway
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To: Red Badger

>> each bag is four meters long and has been seeded with wastewater

The *newest* grad student on the team gets *that* job. :-)


14 posted on 04/16/2012 7:43:12 AM PDT by Nervous Tick (Trust in God, but row away from the rocks!)
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To: Red Badger
So NASA has gone from doing this

To algae farts and Muslim Outreach. Anyone else out there think we've lost some ground here? Now I'm really depressed.

15 posted on 04/16/2012 7:43:19 AM PDT by chimera
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To: Red Badger

How many acres of algae pond per car will it take to fuel a car for a year?


16 posted on 04/16/2012 7:44:38 AM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: MrB

only cost you $425.00 a gallon to fill up your car LOL


17 posted on 04/16/2012 7:45:23 AM PDT by molson209
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To: Red Badger

In the Photo, why are all those guys on the catwalk wearing UN helmets?


18 posted on 04/16/2012 7:45:38 AM PDT by BuffaloJack (End Obama's War On Freedom.)
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To: SkyDancer

That’s my position. We should’t be propagandized into supporting technological development, but we shouldn’t be avoiding it either, just because there’s no real need for it.


19 posted on 04/16/2012 7:48:07 AM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
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To: Red Badger

By my calculations it would take an area of ocean roughly twice the size of the Great Lakes to make enough to cover U.S. Consumption.


20 posted on 04/16/2012 7:49:58 AM PDT by rightsmart
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To: Lazamataz

Trying to get on the good side of the administration?


21 posted on 04/16/2012 7:53:55 AM PDT by petro45acp ("Don't" read 'HOPE' by L Neil Smith and Aaron Zelman...it can bring tears to eyes.)
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To: Red Badger

How does this apply to outer space, exactly?


22 posted on 04/16/2012 7:54:12 AM PDT by moonhawk (Rush, Mark, Sean: Conservative talkers. Sarah, Newt: Conservative DOers. Mitt: Conservative faker)
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To: Jonty30

A bio-fuel company in Washington closed because there was no market for it. Some gov’t cars had been using it but there wasn’t enough sales to keep it going. Plus the cost was around $7.50 a gallon.


23 posted on 04/16/2012 7:54:56 AM PDT by SkyDancer ("Talent Without Ambition Is Sad - Ambition Without Talent Is Worse")
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To: Lazamataz
Suitable for framing:


24 posted on 04/16/2012 7:56:26 AM PDT by tomkat ( Newt / Sarah)
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To: Jonty30

Google “abiotic oil.”

There’s enough evidence now that I’m extremely skeptical about oil NOT being a renewal resource.


25 posted on 04/16/2012 7:56:36 AM PDT by bolobaby
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To: Red Badger

Navy Takes Biofuels Campaign Into Uncharted Waters

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2011/January/Pages/NavyTakesBiofuelsIntoUnchartedWaters.aspx

Since 2006, the Defense Logistics Agency has procured more than 36 million gallons of ethanol-and-petroleum blends for the military. The Navy in September ordered an additional 150,000 gallons of algae-based fuel from San Francisco company Solazyme. The new agreement is seven times the size of the initial 20,000-gallon contract awarded last year. The Navy is paying big bucks for these fuels.

The service consumes an average of 1.2 billion gallons of petroleum each year at a cost of $3 billion — about $2.50 per gallon. The service paid Solazyme $8.5 million to provide just 20,000 gallons of algae-based fuel — $425 per gallon. At that rate, it would cost the Navy some $142.8 billion for the 8 million barrels of biofuel needed to meet its 2020 goal.

Camelina-based fuel is a bit cheaper but still more expensive than petroleum. In September 2009 the DLA’s defense energy support center paid Montana’s Sustainable Oils $2.7 million for 40,000 gallons of camelina-based fuel. That comes to about $67.50 per gallon.


26 posted on 04/16/2012 8:01:32 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: SkyDancer

I know it’s more expensive for now. I’m not suggesting selling it. Although it could be sold at a loss, to offset costs. :)

Just developing it.


27 posted on 04/16/2012 8:07:25 AM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
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To: Red Badger
"NASA is clearly looking far into the future for a way to handle both human waste and a need for fuel on either long space flights or when attempting to colonize another planet."

Surely NASA is aware of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Wait....I'll take that back. I guess that if your mission is Muslim Outreach and the Global Warming Religion, minor details such as the Laws of Physics aren't critical.Algae don't simply convert carbon dioxide into fuel. They USE THE SUN'S ENERGY to make the conversion. The energy has to come from somewhere. Someone needs to tell these dudes that there ain't no sunlight in a space ship.

28 posted on 04/16/2012 8:08:21 AM PDT by norwaypinesavage (Galileo: In science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of one individual)
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To: bolobaby

I’m familiar with the concept. As far as I know, we don’t know the rate the earth develops the oil, assuming it does.

Even if it did, does it develop it at a rate that is faster then we use it, or are we eventually going to face a time of ration, because we have temporarily run out and have to wait for the earth to do its job?


29 posted on 04/16/2012 8:09:48 AM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
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To: MNDude
to create oilgae: 1. You need the bottom of the pool sealed (like a swimming pool) 2. You need the top covered to prevent foreign plants from sprouting. 3. You need 350 gallons of water to create one gallon of oilgae.

Problems 1 and 2 are solved by the plastic bag, and since this uses waste and/or sea water, 3 is covered as well. I think his general idea has merit. Algae has its own natural sea-worthy bag it lives in. We could tweak algae cell DNA to grow to monster size, say 3 inch diameter balls, inject their food and CO2 inside and let them sun bathe in free open ocean "farm fields" until harvest.

30 posted on 04/16/2012 8:14:39 AM PDT by Reeses
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To: SkyDancer
"But perhaps in the future there will be. '

Perhaps. But in the meantime, we need to be aggressively using our own resources to produce energy so that we can use the profits to INVENT these things. Giving the money to hostile countries so that they can destroy our way of life is hardly the right approach. (And I'm including US government taxes in the definition of hostile countries.)

31 posted on 04/16/2012 8:16:40 AM PDT by norwaypinesavage (Galileo: In science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of one individual)
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To: KevinDavis; steelyourfaith

Ping.


32 posted on 04/16/2012 8:16:43 AM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: thackney

Ping.


33 posted on 04/16/2012 8:19:44 AM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: rightsmart
"By my calculations it would take an area of ocean roughly twice the size of the Great Lakes to make enough to cover U.S. Consumption."

Yes, and all of the people of the world would comfortably fit into a building 2 miles by 2 miles by 2 miles. (Providing you didn't need any infrastructure to access them)

You not only need to get the S#!t into the bags, you have to get the algae out. Then you need to replace the bags, fix the failures, and remove the failures. You need a WHOLE lot more than bag space to do this.

34 posted on 04/16/2012 8:27:10 AM PDT by norwaypinesavage (Galileo: In science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of one individual)
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Click the Pup


You haven't donated, have you!
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Sponsors will bark up $10 each time a new monthly donor signs up

35 posted on 04/16/2012 8:32:42 AM PDT by TheOldLady (FReepmail me to get ON or OFF the ZOT LIGHTNING ping list)
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To: norwaypinesavage
But in the meantime, we need to be aggressively using our own resources to produce energy so that we can use the profits to INVENT these things.

When the algae puzzle is solved, and it will be, all fossil fuels still in the ground become practically worthless overnight. We should be pumping all our valuable fossil fuel out of the ground now like it is going out of style, because it is. The idea of saving it for the future is foolish. Now it has extreme value, in the future its value drops to the point it isn't worth extracting.

36 posted on 04/16/2012 9:12:18 AM PDT by Reeses
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To: Red Badger

“two and a half million gallons of fuel annually in an area just under two square miles”

Transportation fuel use is about 6 billion barrels per year or about 240 billion gallons per year. Check my math but that means about 10 thousands square miles of sewage filled plastic bags floating along our coasts.

Some people don’t want to see a windmill or drilling station on the horizon how are they going to sell this?


37 posted on 04/16/2012 9:34:40 AM PDT by dangerdoc (see post #6)
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To: dangerdoc

Make that 20,000 sqaure miles


38 posted on 04/16/2012 9:36:28 AM PDT by dangerdoc (see post #6)
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To: dangerdoc

Well, it won’t block the view..........


39 posted on 04/16/2012 9:56:12 AM PDT by Red Badger (Think logically. Act normally.................)
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To: dangerdoc
The Gulf of Mexico is 579,153 square miles, so using your math we would need just 3.5% of it. That's not a bad trade to send the sand simians packing.


40 posted on 04/16/2012 10:39:00 AM PDT by Reeses
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To: Red Badger

Another payoff scenario for an Obama big donor?


41 posted on 04/16/2012 10:45:53 AM PDT by rxtn41
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To: Reeses

I’m picturing trying to talk the neighbors into allowing the 10 mile by 10 mile plastic sewer mat off their beach, then repeating the fight 200 times.


42 posted on 04/16/2012 11:10:15 AM PDT by dangerdoc (see post #6)
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To: dangerdoc

If the bags are placed so they drift out to sea, once they get 200 miles offshore they are in international waters where activist judges and envi-mentalists have very little say. The Gulf of Mexico surface current moves in a clockwise manner so the bags could be on a natural conveyor belt, ending up close to the Texas refineries at their harvest time. Also we don’t have to use sewage or plastic bags. Possibly we can splice in some watermelon DNA into a seaweed so the water bags are made of seaweed.


43 posted on 04/16/2012 11:34:28 AM PDT by Reeses
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To: Reeses
"When the algae puzzle is solved....."

The issue is not what we will after some dream comes true, the issue is "What are we going to do NOW". We need resources to develop new technology, and those resources come from PROFITS, not government. If we rely on government to solve problems we simply become another Soviet Union. I will bet you anything you choose that the solution to abundant energy is not anything that's ever been in Popular Science magazine.

44 posted on 04/16/2012 12:33:07 PM PDT by norwaypinesavage (Galileo: In science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of one individual)
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To: norwaypinesavage

Since the stone age leaps in technology are typically funded by military spending. That’s because the military is often the only customer willing to pay the initial price. Once a market is created the price starts dropping, eventually to the point a technology is ready for consumer markets. For example when integrated circuits were first invented they cost $1,000 each. The first customer was the military which used them in jet bombers. Now ICs cost pennies. Biofuel will likely follow a similar route. Military demand will drive this, and it will happen very quickly if a large war breaks out. NASA and the military are closely linked.


45 posted on 04/16/2012 1:13:05 PM PDT by Reeses
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To: Jonty30
I know it’s more expensive for now. I’m not suggesting selling it. Although it could be sold at a loss, to offset costs. :) Just developing it.

That's fine with me as long as you invest your money in it and you take the losses. Not one dime of taxpayer money.

46 posted on 04/16/2012 1:37:58 PM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: TigersEye

You mean part of the price you pay at the pump? :)


47 posted on 04/16/2012 1:45:09 PM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
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To: Jonty30
I mean any revenues collected by the government from any source.
48 posted on 04/16/2012 1:46:58 PM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: TigersEye

I agree with you. NASA should be completely privatized or disbanded.


49 posted on 04/16/2012 1:54:15 PM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
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To: Red Badger
On one of Lemuel Gulliver's many travels, he went to Laputa, an island floating in the sky, populated by scientists and philosophers engaged in esoteric projects-- one of which was to extract sunshine from cucumbers. I think Swift would be amused with NASA's latest venture.
50 posted on 04/16/2012 3:48:32 PM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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