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Research into the potential of algae-based fuel is getting a $5 million boost from the U.S. Department of Energy.
New Mexico State University recently announced the funding, saying it will go to a research effort aimed at improving fuel that’s compatible with existing refineries.
NMSU is working on the project along with Los Alamos, Argonne and Pacific Northwest national laboratories, Washington State and Michigan State universities and four companies.
Key goals of the project are to improve the yields and stability of algal biomass and cultivation systems while also improving oil content at harvest.
Each of the necessary process elements, or unit operations, required to produce drop-in fuels from algal biomass are targets for improvements by various team members.
Strain improvement work will be conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Michigan State University and Phycal; cultivation simulation and validation work will be conducted at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and NMSU respectively; while bio-crude extraction methods are being developed at Washington State University.
Quantitative modeling of the unit operations and integrated processes will occur at Pan Pacific Technologies, Algenol Biofuels and Argonne National Laboratory. Algenol Biofuels also will provide closed cultivation systems that dramatically reduce water losses to evaporation and enhance the stability of algae cultures. The project reaches across several NMSU departments, including chemical engineering, plant and environmental sciences, fishery and wildlife sciences and the Bio-Security and Food Safety Laboratory.
NMSU’s key role will be to integrate all of the unit operations at a single location to demonstrate start-to-finish process compatibility. The REAP award follows two other federal awards for the NMSU Algal Bioenergy team – Department of Energy funding through the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts consortium amounting to $700,000 over two years for NMSU to support the algal cultivation testbed located at the Fabian Garcia Science Center, and a National Science Foundation EPSCoR award for which NMSU will get $1.5 million over five years for the algal effort.
NMSU officials say the award follows other federal funding announcements for the university’s algal bioenergy team, including money for the algal cultivation test bed at the Fabian Garcia Science Center.