Sidedoor: The Mean, Green, Water-Cleaning Machine (Season 2, Ep. 4)

The Algal Turf Scrubber (ATS) is one of the marine ecology field’s best-kept secrets.

Invented by Smithsonian scientist Dr. Walter Adey in the 1980s, the ATS harvests algae from large bodies of water and converts it to biomass that can be used to fuel cars, to treat illnesses, and, perhaps someday soon, to even power your cell phone. So why aren’t more people using the ATS system?

Are you curious about the ins and outs of Dr. Adey’s Algal Turf Scrubber (ATS)? Check out his personal website for a deeper dive on its technicalities and uses. Adey’s work began at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where he was able to build entire miniature ecosystems in the building’s basement! Did you know that the original ATS is still fully functional? You can see it in action down on Florida’s east coast at the Smithsonian’s Marine Station in Fort Pierce. Check out this short video to learn more about Biosphere 2, the “bubble” that tested human life within a closed system!

Biology, Botany, Conservation & Sustainability
High School

What are you looking for?


Sidedoor (Smithsonian)

Website URL

Type of Resource


Assigned Categories