[ad#PhycoBiosciences AIM Interview]

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
A new $1 million relationship between Michigan State University and ExxonMobil will expand research in the fundamental science to advance algae-based fuels. Dr. David Kra...
The Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, located in College Park, Maryland, has invested $150,000 into Manta Biofuel LLC, a company that produces crude oil from algae at a c...
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) has built a one-of-a-kind technical facility for algae cultivation at the Ludwig Bölkow Campus in Ottobrunn, to the south of Muni...
Hannah Osborne writes in the International Business Times that algae has been genetically engineered to kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells. The algae nanopar...
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded Arizona State University (ASU) a three-year, $1 million grant to fund the Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Capture and Membrane ...
Ewen Callaway writes in the jounal Nature that restrictions on harvests and exports of Gelidium seaweed in Morocco have affected the global supply of the lab reagent agar...
Algatechnologies Ltd. has launched its AstaPure® 5% Natural Astaxanthin oleoresin, derived from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae. This latest addition to the AstaPure f...
While researchers have long suspected that climate change will lead to stronger and more frequent algal blooms, a new fusion of climate models and watershed models has pr...
Students of algal research, including it's various applications and business models, have increasing opportunities to get quickly up to speed in many aspects of the rapid...
Algae.Tec has announced that it has completed the commissioning and initial startup of an algae production plant to produce algae-based nutraceutical products. The plant ...
Abigail Klein Leichman writes in ISRAEL21c that, in the rush to research algae-based technologies, Israel – as a startup nation itself – is at the forefront of much of th...
Kailua Kona-based Cyanotech Corporation announced financial results for the third quarter and first nine months of fiscal year 2016, ended December 31, 2015. For the thir...