[ad name=”PhycoBiosciences AIM Interview”]

Research

MSU researching high alkaline algae

January 3, 2013
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Montana State University professor Robin Gerlach looks at a vial containing organisms collected from a highly alkaline spring in Yellowstone National Park. MSU Photo by Kelly Gorham.

Montana State University professor Robin Gerlach looks at a vial containing organisms collected from a highly alkaline spring in Yellowstone National Park. MSU Photo by Kelly Gorham.

Montana State University professor Robin Gerlach coordinates research into the production of oil-producing algae, as well as studies the feasibility of commercial-scale biofuel production based on microbes discovered in Yellowstone National Park. Part of a multi-institutional project funded by a grant through the Sustainable Energy Pathways program at the National Science Foundation, it is one of many algal biofuel research projects in the labs of MSU professors Keith Cooksey, Matthew Fields, Brent Peyton and Gerlach.

The project, which also includes the University of North Carolina and the University of Toledo, is part of a federal effort to tackle some of the fundamental problems in developing enough biofuels fuels to provide up to 50 percent of the nation’s transportation fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy is funding the project.

Greg Characklis, UNC environmental engineer is building computer models to test the economic feasibility of producing algal biofuels on a commercial scale. Photo by Donn Young.

Greg Characklis, UNC environmental engineer is building computer models to test the economic feasibility of producing algal biofuels on a commercial scale. Photo by Donn Young.

“The project takes the groundbreaking work MSU scientists have done on algal biofuels and begins to integrate some of the bigger questions about what this promising technology will look like if it is going to become a major source of sustainable energy,” Gerlach said.

One promising line of research involves alkalinity-loving microbes from Yellowstone’s hot springs, as well as from Washington’s Soap Lake. Soap is highly alkaline.

Key to the success of algal biofuels is getting the algae to produce lots of oil that can be converted into biodiesel and other fuels. To produce lots of lipid, algae have to consume a lot of carbon – in this case, bicarbonate, as found in baking soda.

Typically, people think algae consume carbon dioxide but, under alkaline conditions, most of the inorganic carbon in the water is in the form of bicarbonate. “In these highly alkaline environments, that carbon becomes soluble in water and it can be used,” said Gerlach, whose research team includes post-doctoral students, graduate students and undergraduates.

“The oils produced by these high alkalinity algae could also be turned into other products, such as nutritional supplements,” said Gerlach. “Thriving in a highly alkaline environment lessens the contamination that can complicate efforts to extract commercially viable oils.”

The work at the University of North Carolina is taking a holistic look at the future of algal biofuels. That portion of the project is being conducted by Gregory Characklis, who grew up in Bozeman and is the son of the late Bill Characklis, the MSU professor who founded the Center for Biofilm Engineering.

Characklis, a professor in UNC’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, is compiling data to build computer models that will test the economic feasibility of producing algal biofuels on a commercial scale, while also assessing some of the environmental impacts of the production process.

“It’s not to say that there aren’t challenges associated with algal biofuels. But when we look closely at a system we’d need to scale up to the level of providing 50 percent of the nation’s transportation fuels, there seem to be fewer fatal flaws than those associated with many other biofuels,” Characklis said.

Read More

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2014 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
Susan Kraemer writes in solarpaces.org that to use solar thermal energy to convert farmed algae to fuel, the solar fuels research team at Australian National University (...
Cyanotech Corporation, a Kailua Kona, Hawaii-based leader in high-value nutrition and health products made from algae, has announced financial results for the first quart...
Algae and corals have been leaning on each other since dinosaurs roamed the earth, much longer than had been previously thought, according to new research led by scientis...
Tavelmout Biofarm (TVMB), a Bruneian subsidiary of Tabérumo Corporation — a pioneer in the large-scale cultivation of spirulina using photobioreactors — has launched thei...
San Diego, CA and Kailua-Kona, HI-based Cellana, Inc. has signed an Asset Purchase Agreement with Cyanotech Corporation for the sale of Cellana’s six-acre production and ...
New Food Magazine reports that a new Danish project called “Microalgae for Food” has received DKK 750,000 (approximately $110,000US) in co-financing from the Ministry of ...
Edinburgh-based biotech startup MiAlgae has received an investment of £1 million ($1.3USD) to focus on the commercialization of its microalgae products that use co-produc...
When there is a combination of population increase, wastewater discharge, agricultural fertilization, and climate change, the cocktail is detrimental to humans and animal...
Nature.com reports that swimming algae have been enlisted to carry drugs to individual cells, raising the prospect that such “microswimmers” could deliver targeted therap...
The Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, a technology-based economic development program funded by the state of Utah, has awarded a $175,320 grant for...
Laura Sanders reports in Sciencenews.org that using algae as local oxygen factories in the brain might one day lead to therapies for strokes or other damage from too litt...
A nasal spray derived from algae and a plant in the tobacco family could offer a preventive measure for COVID-19. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and...