Research

Abu Dhabi scientists developing high salinity algal strain

August 18, 2013
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Ahmed Al Harethi, a second year master's student with Masdar Institute's Chemical Engineering program, is cultivating algae strains found in water pools in Al Wathbah, Abu Dhabi, for his biofuel research. Courtesy Masdar Institute

Ahmed Al Harethi, a second year master’s student with Masdar Institute’s Chemical Engineering program, is cultivating algae strains found in water pools in Al Wathbah, Abu Dhabi, for his biofuel research. Courtesy Masdar Institute

Matt Kwong reports for The National that researchers from Abu Dhabi have been roaming the open desert with geospatial mapping software, looking for blooms of AAH001, a particularly hardy strain of algae native to Abu Dhabi, that could eventually usher in another energy boom for the UAE.

Dr. Hector Hernandez, the assistant professor at the Masdar Institute who is leading the research, first located AAH001 two years ago in the desert near Al Wathba. He believes it could solve a big obstacle in the effort to use single-celled, photosynthetic organisms to make a renewable, alternative fuel.

“Most of the algae used for biofuels we’ve heard about to date use fresh water, and there’s huge evaporation,” said Dr. Hernandez. “In the last two years, people have realized that’s not sustainable. They’ve been looking for algae that live at high salinities. We found it in Abu Dhabi, and we realized we had something special. This thing is a rock star.”

Unlike most algal strains, AAH001 survives remarkably well in a wide range of temperatures and has a long harvesting season. “I can grow this from 20°C all the way up to 40°C without worrying about evaporation or the salinity,” Dr. Hernandez said. “It seems to live very well, not just survive, in all these different conditions.”

Dr. Hernandez said he was pleasantly surprised in February 2011 to discover AAH001 in the desert, growing near ultra-high salinity watering holes in the sabkha (salt flats). Ponds in the area have salinities that are up to six times higher than the ocean.

In a basement lab at the Masdar Institute, Dr. Hernandez and his team have been able to grow the algae at more than 300 parts per thousand salt – roughly nine times the regular salinity of the ocean. The strain is considerably lower maintenance, and does not require the same specialized feed, strict temperatures or salinity controls as other algae. “It seems to be the only strain to date that has all the qualities we’re looking for,” said Dr. Hernandez.

With so much uninhabitable desert available in Abu Dhabi, processing plants could be built inland and around large salt flats rather than by the sea, where they would harm ecologically sensitive marine life.

The commercial possibilities were discussed in February at the inaugural Algae World MENA 2013 Conference, Seminar and Summit in Dubai. “We’ve been approached by very large corporations internationally who want to take this to the next step as soon as possible,” Dr. Hernandez said. “We have the land, we have the space available, and we’re just looking for somebody who has the expertise and technology to scale up from pond size.”

Read More

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2013 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
Heliae, SCHOTT North America and Arizona State University (ASU) have announced a partnership to bring Heliae’s algae production technology to ASU’s algae testbed facility...
Natural carotenoid specialists Piveg Inc., with production facilities based in Celaya, Central Mexico, has announced immediate availability of natural astaxanthin materia...
Solazyme, Inc. has announced results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2013. “2013 was a year of great progress for Solazyme as we readied our first...
One of 12 winners of the 2014 Lexus Design Award, the Ooho algae balloon was created by three London-based designers to contribute a solution to the rising number of plas...
“Proterro has reached its Q1 sugar-production pilot milestones,” CEO Kef Kasdin reported at the recent Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, in Washington, D.C. “In fo...
Yereth Rosen reports in the Anchorage Daily News that scientists at North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute have found extremely high levels o...
Santa Fe Community College has been awarded a $50,000, SEED Infrastructure Grant from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), for commercial ...
Algal oil represents one of the significant segments within the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) ingredients market. Specifically, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is ...
Although the use of whole microalgae in animal diets has long been studied, the 
de-fatted biomass of microalgal species, derived from biofuel production research, has on...
Algae Industry Magazine is pleased to announce a new Algae 101 series by our popular blogger, Mark Edwards, Professor, Arizona State University. The Algae Solutions to Na...
Steven Mufson reports for the Washington Post that Algenol Biofuels estimates hackers have attempted to break into its computers 39 million times in four months this year...
Biofuels derived from the oils produced by algae may offer a low-cost sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. To achieve this goal, optimization of cost effective strate...
Following a request from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) was recently asked t...
Bookending the upcoming Algae Biomass Summit, Sept. 29-Oct.2 in San Diego, will be industry tours to give attendees a first-hand look at the latest progress in technical ...
The EPA has released the Annual Use of Pesticides in the U.S. Report. We now know that American farmers apply roughly a billion pounds of toxic chemicals intentionally in...
Researchers at the Paul Scherer Institute (PSI) in Wädenswil, Switzerland, have succeeded in producing energy-rich gas from microalgae, and in doing so have demonstrated ...
James “Jamie” Levine took over the reigns at Sapphire Energy in July of this year as former President and CEO Cynthia “CJ” Warner stepped down, retaining her role as chai...
A team of Michigan State University algae researchers have discovered a cellular "snooze button" that has the potential to improve biofuel production and offer ...