RENO, Nev. The first real-world, demonstration-scale project in Nevada for turning algae into biofuel has successfully completed the initial stage of research at the University of Nevada, Reno. The project is on track to show the process is an economical, commercially viable renewable energy source in Nevada.
University researchers have harvested their first outdoor cold-weather crop of algae as part of their collaborative algae-to-biofuels project with their industry partners Enegis, LLC and Bebout and Associates.
The project, using one of two 5,000-gallon ponds at the University's greenhouse complex on Valley Road in Reno, produced several hundred gallons of concentrated algal slurry. The research has demonstrated that, with the proper technology and species of algae, it is possible to grow algae outdoors year-round in Nevada. The pond was inoculated with a "starter" culture and then the cells grow out until they reach a plateau or stationary phase, which takes two to three weeks. The algae thrived in the outdoor pond despite nighttime temperatures that fell into the low 20s.
"We'll be analyzing the algae for starches and lipids, the components that can be used for fuel," said Professor John Cushman, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. A conservative estimate for this harvest is 30 percent lipids and five percent starches on a dry weight basis, less on a fresh weight basis." The professor oversees the venture along with fellow faculty members Jeffrey Harper and David Shintani, two graduate students Leyla Hernandez-Gomez and Mark Lemos, and research associate Rebecca Albion.
The goal is to develop a hardy variety of salt-loving algae as alternative biofuel feedstock, which produces more than half its weight in oil as well as developing a practical process to grow, concentrate and harvest the algae. The alga variety harvested was selected and cultured by the University, and future varieties will be develop
|Contact: Mike Wolterbeek|
University of Nevada, Reno