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US DOE announces up to US$8 million to enable algae-based biofuel breakthroughs

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the selection of three projects to receive up to US$8 million, aimed at reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts.

Algae in tubes (photo courtesy Syracuse University).
Algae in tubes (photo courtesy Syracuse University). Algae in tubes (photo courtesy Syracuse University).

According to a statement from the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the selected projects will deliver “high-impact tools and techniques” for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures. They will also deliver biology-focused breakthroughs while enabling accelerated future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community. The funding supports the development of “a bioeconomy that can help create jobs, spur innovation, improve the quality of life, and achieve national energy security”.

The selected projects include the following:

  • Lumen Bioscience (Seattle, Washington): Working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lumen Bioscience will rapidly engineer strains that grow robustly in seawater, resist contamination and predation, and accumulate substantial amounts of energy-rich components. Lumen Bioscience is focusing on agricultural production of algae on otherwise non-productive land in rural eastern Washington State, with the ultimate goal of creating new agricultural jobs in that region.
  • Global Algae Innovations (El Cajon, California): Pond ecology has a major impact on algal health and productivity, yet very little is known about the impacts of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi. In partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, University of California at San Diego – Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the J. Craig Venter Institute, Global Algae Innovations will deliver a tool for low-cost, rapid analysis of pond microbiota, gather data on the impacts of pond ecology, and develop new cultivation methods that utilize this information to achieve greater algal productivity.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, New Mexico): Working with Sapphire Energy at its Las Cruces, New Mexico, field site, Los Alamos National Laboratory will evaluate rationally designed pond cultures containing multiple species of algae, as well as beneficial bacteria, to achieve consistent biomass composition and high productivity. This project will help the algal research and development community better understand these metrics at commercial scales.

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