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
As of March 1, 2015, bbi-biotech GmbH, of Berlin, Germany, has begun integrating IGV Biotech GmbH’s photobioreactors into its own life science product portfolio. A former...
As one of the most water-poor countries in the world, Jordan’s current water resources are significantly below the global water scarcity line. Annual rainfall falls under...
Jeff Gelski writes in foodbusinessnews.net that algae oil is now in the toolbox of alternative oils shown to replace partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which cause trans...
Simris Alg, a pioneering agribusiness producing omega-3 from farmed algae, has been declared one of Sweden’s 33 hottest companies in new technology. The renowned list is ...
Murdoch University researchers are investigating whether the effluent from piggeries can be effectively treated with micro- and macroalgae so that species of the organism...
The vision of developing a community college degree program to train a high technology algae workforce was launched at New Mexico's Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) in 2...
Using microalgae to capture CO2 is a complex process, especially in flue gas environments, reports an editorial by IEA Clean Coal Centre in worldcoal.com. There are many ...
Earthrise Nutritionals, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tokyo, Japan’s DIC Corporation, is on schedule to complete construction in August, 2015, of a new extraction plant fo...
Tom Redmond and Yuko Takeo report for Bloomberg.com that, after 10 years of developing algae as a nutritional supplement generating $37.8 million in annual revenue, Japan...
Biocrude oil obtained from hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) of algae can be an energy-efficient replacement for the fossil crude oil normally used in the production of fue...
Algiran, an Iranian algal biotech company, has recently established a pilot scale algal cultivation demonstration facility at the Chabahar Free Zone, in the Baluchistan P...
You know algae are a great food source for you. But what are the best ways to eat it? Jami Foss writes in shape.com about 10 ways to eat algae that are common, healthy an...
Using a newly devised technique, researchers at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) have examined microalgae strains in the Culture Collection of Algae and...
Currently made most often from petroleum and natural gas, ethylene is used in the manufacture of plastics and polyester, and ranks as the largest petrochemical produced b...
Nitrogen and phosphate nutrients are among the biggest costs in cultivating algae for biofuels. Sandia National Laboratories molecular biologists Todd Lane and Ryan Davis...