Algae Biofuel: Finding Algae Species For Making Renewable Energy

Researchers are starting a new project to find algae biofuel -- algae species which could be used as source for energy-rich oils. Algae DISCOVR Project, dhort for Development of Integrated Screening, Cultivar Optimization and Validation Research, is a $6-million collaborative project which will reduce the cost and time to find algae biofuel.   

Finding algae species best for making biofuel is not an easy task. Lab results from test tubes often get results that are not the same with what really happens when the algae are on the pond. In the Algae DISCOVR Project, researchers expect to find four algae biofuel out of 30 candidates in three years.

"Algae biofuel is a promising clean energy technology, but the current production methods are costly and limit its use. The price of biofuel is largely tied to growth rates. Our method could help developers find the most productive algae strains more quickly and efficiently," lead researcher, Michael Huesemann of the Department of Energy said on a press release by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

First, the team will do a multi-step screening process using PNNL's Laboratory Environmental Algae Pond Simulator mini-photobioreactors to study the growth rate of the different types of algae strains. Those with suitable growth would be investigated further to measure oil, protein and carbohydrate content. They will also study how each type would react to harmful bacteria and algae predators.

The researchers will then evaluate how much biomass (organic matter used to make biofuel) each type can produce. They will choose those which can produce at least 20 percent more than previously well-studied algae strains. The will also study which algae strains contain more oil and those which can survive in stressful conditions like high temperatures.

The algae strains which will be chosen after each step will be grown in large outdoor ponds in Arizona. They will also harvest biomass and study how fast the algae grow in different lighting and temperature conditions. After the project, the researchers would also like to study how to harvest algae biofuel and assess the feasibility of using the selected algae in making biofuel, cited Science Daily.

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