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ASU to Lead National Algae Testbed

September 16, 2012

Aerial view of the outdoor testbed at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology

Aerial view of the outdoor testbed at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation on Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus. Photo by: Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation

The U.S. Department of Energy has selected the Arizona State University led Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) for a $15M award for its Advancements in Sustainable Algal Production opportunity.

“This algae national testbed will provide high quality data and a network of sites that will speed the pace of innovation,” said Gary Dirks, director of ATP3 and ASU LightWorks, the university initiative that pulls light-inspired research at ASU under one strategic framework. “The network will support companies and research institutions as they work to meet the nation’s energy challenges.”

“We are proud of the work being done at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation on our Polytechnic campus and are looking forward to increasing our impact on the advancement of the algae-industry in collaboration with the newly established ATP3 partnership,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president with ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Photobioreactors at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation

Photobioreactors at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) facility in Mesa, Ariz., at sunset. Photo by: Arizona State University

The ATP3 partnership is led by the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) housed at ASU’s Polytechnic campus with support from national labs and academic and industrial partners, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories, Cellana LLC, Touchstone Research Laboratory, SRS Energy, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas at Austin, and Commercial Algae Management.

“This is a critical step for DOE’s support of the growing algal biofuel industry,” said Philip Pienkos, principal manager of the applied biology group at NREL and director of integration for ATP3. “The productivity data generated by the ATP3 testbeds will flow into techno-economic and lifecycle assessment models and provide a basis for tracking progress toward goals in production economics and sustainability. By making high quality testbed capabilities available to researchers and technology developers, they will allow rapid testing of novel concepts at scale and greatly accelerate commercialization.

“NREL is proud to play a key role in the establishment and operation of the ATP3 testbed in a manner that will allow DOE to achieve its long term goals towards production of advanced biofuels.”

ATP3 will function as a testing facility for the algal research community supporting the operation of existing outdoor algae cultivation systems and allowing researchers access to real-world conditions for algal biomass production for biofuel. Testbed facilities for the partnership are physically located in Arizona, Hawaii, California, Ohio and Georgia.

Outdoor ponds and photobioreactors at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology

Outdoor ponds and photobioreactors at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) on the Polytechnic campus. Photo by: Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

DOE’s investment from its Biomass Program in ATP3 means companies and research institutes will have access to facilities and data from long-term algal cultivation trials for use in establishing a realistic and coherent state of technology for algal biofuels.

“This multi-regional testbed will address a major gap currently hindering the scale-up of algal biofuels,” said Blake Simmons, the biomass program manager for Sandia. “This partnership will provide validated data on algal growth and biofuel production across multiple sites in the USA, and will provide essential data related to the scale-up and commercialization of algal biofuels.”

AzCATI was created by grants from Science Foundation Arizona and its president and CEO William Harris. AzCATI and algae research and development also benefitted from the strong support of Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer.

Two new algae-related bills passed in Arizona classify algae as agriculture and allow for growth and harvest of algae on state trust lands. These advancements in the state create a more attractive environment for industry.

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