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Crop Biotech Update

Sandia National Laboratories See Polluted Lake as Potential Algae Biofuel Source

August 16, 2017

Scientists from the Sandia National Laboratories are studying if one of California's most polluted lakes can be turned into a source of algae biofuel. They are hoping that the Salton Sea Biomass Remediation (SABRE) project will help determine whether algae biofuels can help solve the US energy needs.

Salton Sea in Southern California currently has elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus due to agricultural runoff. Algae thrive in these conditions, causing a lot of environmental problems. Researchers from Sandia are now looking to use this algae as a biofuel source as well as to clean the lake.

The first phase of the project saw Sandia scientists test a new method for producing algae, called an ‘Alga Turf Scrubber' floway system. The system pulses water from the lake in waves across a sloped floway. The algae consume the nutrients, and clean water is released out the other side. Solar powered pumps power the system, while periodic farming of the algae can be done using farming equipment. By producing algae native to the area, the new system is more resistant to pathogens and predators.