Research

NSF Gives $2mil to OSU for Diatom Study

September 23, 2012
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Diatom

The National Science Foundation has awarded a four-year, $2 million grant to Engineers at Oregon State University, in Corvallis, OR, to study if diatoms can make biofuel production from algae truly cost-effective by simultaneously producing other valuable products such as semiconductors, biomedical products and even health foods.

Greg Rorrer, an OSU professor and head of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering has studied the remarkable power of diatoms for more than a decade. “We have shown how diatoms can be used to produce semiconductor materials, chitin fibers for biomedical applications, or the lipids needed to make biofuels,” he said. “We believe that we can produce all of these products in one facility at the same time and move easily from one product to the other. The concept is called a ‘photosynthetic biorefinery.’

“This NSF program is intended to support long-range concepts for a sustainable future, but in fact we’re demonstrating much of the science behind these technologies right now,” he adds.

Biofuels are a comparatively low-value product, and existing technologies have so far been held back by cost. This program, according to the researchers, may help produce products with much higher value at the same time – like glucosamine, a food product commonly sold as a health food supplement – giving the entire process more economic sense.

Much of the cost in this approach, researchers say, is not the raw materials involved but the facilities needed for production. As part of the work at OSU, they plan to develop mathematical models so that various options can be tested and computers used to perfect the technology before actually building it.

The OSU scientists point out that the key to all of this is the diatom itself, a natural nanotechnology factory that has been found in the fossil record for more than 100 million years. Diatoms evolved sometime around the Jurassic Period when dinosaurs flourished. A major component of phytoplankton, diatoms have rigid microscopic shell walls made out of silica, and the capability to biosynthesize various compounds of commercial value.

“Regular algae don’t make everything that diatoms can make,” Rorrer said. “This is the only organism we know of that can create organized structures at the nano-level and naturally produce such high-value products. With the right components, they will make what you want them to make.”

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2012 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
Hammenhög, Sweden-based agribusiness Simris Alg has announced the launch of its first consumer products. The algae farmers’ exclusive omega-3 supplements and superfoods w...
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...
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing an early warning indicator system using historical and current satellite data to detect algal blooms. EPA res...
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 ...
Scientific representatives from the EnAlgae consortium are announcing preliminary results this week from a key algal carbon capture project in the works at Britain’s larg...
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has named Solazyme CEO and co-founder Jonathan S. Wolfson as the recipient of its 2015 George Washington Carver Award for in...
Japan’s IHI Corporation has announced that they have succeeded in stably cultivating a modified high-output algal strain in a 1,500 square meter open pond in Kagoshima, K...
The fully automated plant at the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP in Leuna, Germany, was designed to produce microalgae at industrial scale. ...
OriginClear Inc. and partner AlgEternal have announced that, based on AlgEternal’s field tests, they believe their pure algae concentrate, harvested with OriginClear tech...
Studies conducted by EnAlgae partners in Ireland, France and Belgium point the way to seaweed being a viable and sustainable feedstock for the future in North West Europe...
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...
In Japan, the Algae Biomass Energy System Development Research Center, headed by Professor Makoto Watanabe, was established at the University of Tsukuba on July 1. The ne...
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...
Nurit Canetti writes in Israeli Pulse that Rwandan agronomists are on a one-year visit to Israel to study various aspects of Israeli agriculture firsthand. Primarily they...
MicroBio Engineering, Inc. has announced a new line of 100 and 1,000 liter Algae Raceways™, building on the success of their popular 0.5 m2 (5.5 ft2) and 3.5 m2 (40 ft2),...