Ames Lab to research algae biodiesel nanofarming

By Ryan C. Christiansen | October 14, 2008
Web exclusive posted Oct. 27, 2008 at 3:01 p.m. CST

The U.S. DOE has awarded $885,000 to its Ames Laboratory, which is operated by Iowa State University in Ames, to research using nanoscale particles to harvest chemical compounds-such as triglycerides, neutral lipids, and fatty acids-from microalgae for biodiesel production. Ames Lab is required to secure $232,224 in additional funding for the three-year project led by Victor Lin, Ames Lab chemist and ISU chemical and biological science program director.

According to Kerry Gibson, a media relations staff member at Ames Lab, ISU just completed a research project that successfully used chemically-coated, honeycomb-like silica nanoscale particles to penetrate plant cell walls to deliver molecules to the cells. The biodiesel research project will attempt to use the nanoscale particles to penetrate the cell walls of microalgae to harvest chemicals from the algae to produce biodiesel without destroying the organisms. "It's basically nanofarming," Gibson said.

Dr. Lin is also studying using nanoscale porous catalysts to ferment gasified waste into ethanol. In August, Ethanol Producer Magazine wrote Nanoscale catalyst converts syngas to ethanol.
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