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MRI Expands Energy Role: Launches Center for Integrated Algal Research and Creates Director of Energy Programs Position

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Midwest Research Institute (MRI) today announced the formation of a new Center for Integrated Algal Research and the appointment to a newly created position, the Director of Energy Programs.

"Reducing America's dependence on foreign oil is one of our country's foremost challenges -- one in which MRI has been involved through our own research and technology development and as the Management and Operating contractor of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory for over 30 years," said MRI Senior Vice President and Director of Research Operations Michael F. Helmstetter, Ph.D. "An area that shows great promise regarding energy and the environment is the use of algae as both a mechanism for sequestering carbon dioxide emissions and as a viable source of biofuel."

MRI's new Center for Integrated Algal Research, located in Kansas City, Mo., will leverage the Institute's expertise in biotechnology, chemistry, systems engineering, and bioinformatics to provide government and industry with a broad range of basic and applied R&D, process engineering, consulting, and lifecycle cost analysis services related to the use of algae in solving many global energy and environmental challenges.

Current research identifies several characteristics that make algae a good candidate to reduce carbon emission and produce biofuel:

-- Microalgae can grow using municipal wastewater.

-- Algae have greater photosynthetic efficiency than higher terrestrial

plants and can grow in a range of temperatures, pH, and nutrient load.

-- Algae have a higher growth rate and oil content -- and needs less energy

output to produce oil -- than many other plants.

-- Algal biocrude is suitable as a feedstock in existing U.S. refineries.

According to Helmstetter, MRI's new Center will focus on research and technology development associated with identifying and optimizing algal species for carbon dioxide uptake, as well as for biofuel production. Focus areas include:

-- modification of species using molecular tools

-- developing and purification of seed cultures

-- identifying and eliminating bioreactor contamination

-- growth kinetics and optimizing growth conditions

-- operating open and closed algal bioreactors

-- developing and validating harvesting approaches

-- devising and integrating processing technologies

-- recovering byproducts and reclaimed water.

In addition to announcing the Center for Integrated Algal Research, MRI also announced the appointment of Stanley Bull, Ph.D., as Director of Energy Programs, a newly created position at MRI. Bull, formerly Associate Director for Science and Technology at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and MRI Vice President, assumed responsibilities for MRI's Energy Programs effective Oct. 1, 2008.

"Energy research is a top priority at MRI, and we selected an energy director who not only has excellent business and technical skills but also a passion for science and scientific discovery," said Helmstetter. Bull has extensive experience in leading and managing R&D programs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and provided leadership for NREL's biofuels program, including the Aquatic Species Program for more than 20 years.

Bull has a Ph.D. and M.S. from Stanford University and a B.S. from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His degrees are in chemical engineering and mechanical engineering. Professional recognition and honors include a Senior Fulbright-Hays Professorship in Grenoble, France, and the Secretary of Energy Outstanding Program Manager Award.

SOURCE Midwest Research Institute
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