PNNL Researchers Evaluate Algae to Find the Best Biofuel

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Marine Sciences Laboratory, led by Dr. Michael Huesemann, are evaluating algae to find the best biofuel possible. Huesemann started on the algae DISCOVR project (Development of Integrated Screening, Cultivar Optimization and Validation Research) in October 2016 with a small team of senior and junior scientists in Sequim. The project aims to do an organized, rational screening of millions of strains of algae.

The process to find the best algae is broken into a process of five tiers among labs in Sequim, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Arizona State University's Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation.

In Tier I, scientists will test algae strains to see how weather-tolerant they are, with the top performers going to Tier II. Scientists will then house them using a climate-simulating system called LEAPS (Laboratory Environmental Algae Pond Simulator). They will then evaluate the algae to search for valuable compounds that could make algae biofuel production more cost-effective. Tier I and II are currently being conducted this year.

For Tier III, researchers in New Mexico will further test top-performing algae strains, including forcing them to grow faster or generate more oil using laboratory techniques. Next, strains will be studied in outdoor ponds in Arizona as part of Tier IV to compare biomass output with earlier steps. Lastly, scientists will study the algae strains that performed the best in different lighting and temperature conditions for Tier V.

Once the study is complete, their research will be made public for companies and other researchers.


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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