Algae news roundup

By Ron Kotrba | January 17, 2013

Algae news made prolific headlines the past two months. Here is a synopsis of the recent activity in algae:

Sapphire Energy and Institute for Systems Biology formed a strategic partnership to further the scientific research and development of algae biofuels. They will focus on applying systems biology solutions to algae with the goal of significantly increasing oil yield and improving resistance to crop predators and environmental factors to further advancement of commercialized algae biofuel production.

Researchers at University of Michigan announced they can “pressure-cook” algae for a minute to transform 65 percent of the algae into biocrude. The research, “The Effects of Heating Rate and Reaction Time on Hydrothermal Liquefaction of Microalgae,” was funded by the Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program of the National Science Foundation. The university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property and is seeking commercialization partners.
Iowa State University’s pilot algae production facility, which houses two raceway pond systems, four large flat-panel photobioreactors and a custom-made revolving attachment-based photobioreactor, was nearly completed as of November. Total production capacity is 50 to 100 dried kilograms of algae biomass annually.

Propel Fuels and Solazyme Inc. brought algae-derived fuel to retail pumps in the San Francisco Bay area for a month-long pilot program.

Biologists at UC San Diego have demonstrated for the first time that marine algae can be just as capable as fresh water algae in producing biofuels. The scientists genetically engineered marine algae to produce five different kinds of industrially important enzymes and say the same process they used could be employed to enhance the yield of petroleum-like compounds from these salt water algae. Their achievement is detailed in a paper published online in the current issue of the scientific journal Algal Research.

A Cornell research team has received a $910,000 grant from the U.S. DOE to work toward revolutionizing how biofuels are produced from algae. The team seeks to design and build a completely new type of bioreactor that efficiently delivers light and collects fuel produced by algae inside the reactors. They call it an “optofluidic reactor” and it will harness photosynthesis by directly converting carbon dioxide to biofuels using blue-green algae (cyanobacteria).

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