A novel, approximately $6-million collaborative project is employing this unique climate boosting laboratory system as part of a novel streamlined procedure to instantly pare down heaps of algae species into just a few that hold the most promise for renewable fuels.
Identifying which algae species is best suited to make biofuel is no minute task. Scientists have attempted to evaluate algae in test tubes, but often find lab results don’t always mirror what happens when green goo is grown in exterior ponds.
The Algae DISCOVER project, which is a short name for Development of Integrated Screening, Validation Research and Cultivator optimization is trying out a novel approach that could diminish the cost and the time required to move lucrative algal strains from the lab and into production. At the end of the three-year pilot project, researchers expect to identify four promising strains from at least 30 basic candidates.
“Algae biofuel is lucrative clean energy technology, but the present production techniques are expensive and limits its use,” says the head researcher of the project, Michael Huesemann of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National laboratory. “The price of biofuel is largely linked to growth rates, Our technique could aid developers identify the most productive algae strains more efficiently and fast.”
After passing through series of tests, the remaining strains will be expanded in grown in big outdoor ponds in Arizona. Scientists will identify how algae growth in the outdoor ponds compared with the algal biomass output identified in earlier steps. Biomass will also be cultivated from outdoor grown algae for future studies.
Eventually, the group will further study the final algae strains that fare finest outdoors to comprehend how rapid they grow in varying lighting and temperature conditions. The information will then be entered into PNNL’s Biomass Assessment Tool that uses detailed information from weather stations and other essential sources to identify the finest possible locations to grow algae.
The tool will crunch the numbers to aid the group generate maps that represent the expected biomass productivity of each algae species grown in outdoor ponds at any location in the U.S. Strains and data will be made public in the hopes that algae companies and other scientists will consider growing the most productive strains identified by the project.
Potential future work not comprised in the present project could include transforming harvested algae into biofuels, examining operational changes like crop rotation to further enhance biomass growth and assess the technical possibility and economic expenditure of preparing biofuel from algae selected through this procedure
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