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Blogs under tag Biofuels

A New Type of Chlorophyll Discovered after 60 years of Research Posted by Sumukhi on Fri August 27 2010 04:04:10 AM 59

An interdisplinary team of scientists discover a new form of Chlorophyll which could lead to new developments of new methods to produce biofuels. The team had a group of scientists

-  Dr Martin Schliep and Dr Zhengli Cai (University of Sydney, Australia);

-  Associate Professor Robert Willows (Macquarie University, Australia);

-  Professor Brett Neilan (University of New South Wales, Australia)

-  Professor Hugo Scheer (University of Munich, Germany)

These scientists worked together and characterized the absorption properties and chemical structure of chlorophyll f, making it the fifth known type of chlorophyll molecule on Earth. Believe it or not, many scientists have been researching on this for over 60 years now.

Chlorophyll, as you might be knowing is an important green pigment found in algae which  helps the  algae to obtain energy from light.,  It  was earlier believed that these pigments absorbs light more strongly in the blue portion of the electromagnetic spectrum followed by the red spectrum and so on. However, this new discovery extends that range all the way to the red end of that spectrum.

This finding could lead to the development of new methods to produce biofuels more efficiently. The efficiency of the photosynthesis is entirely dependent on the type and intensity of sunlight the algae is exposed to and  this discovery could thus help us to probably use a suitable  algae strain or probably engineer a strain which can accumulate lipids in its cells and produce biofuels even when its exposed to multiple types of light.

If the algae is able to make effective utilization of a wider portion of the light spectrum, than it naturally produces a lot more energy, which in turn allows it to grow faster. This means that the point is located just beyond the red end of the visible light spectrum.

There  are four forms of Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll a Chlorophyll b Chlorophyll c1 Chlorophyll c2 Chlorophyll d.  This newly discovered chlorophyll is called Chlorophyll f which can utilize lower energy than any other knows chlorophyll.

This chlorophyll was first identified rather accidently discovered in what is called stromatolites. Stromatolites are basically layered structures formed in shallow water by the trapping, binding and cementation of sedimentary grains by blue-green algae.

The samples used in this particular investigation were collected from the Hamelin pool, in the Shark Bay of western Australia. The research team  believes that microorganisms known as filamentous cyanobacteria are responsible for the production of chlorophyll f in stromatolites.

More information: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=new-form-chlorophyll

$52 million for algae fuel development- Solazyme Posted by Sumukhi on Tue August 10 2010 06:58:56 AM 6

Solazyme, a company based out of California have been working on a unique method of making algae fuels by using cheap sugars to grow algae in the dark.

As you might be aware of the fact that Solazyme uses a very different approach to make biofuels, they use heterotrophic algae in the dark while the others grow photo-autotrophic algae in light.These algae however doesn?t require sunlight, they need sugar for their growth. Intrestingly, Growing these algae in dark is a simplified process. It grows faster in dark than with light.

Heterotrophic algae are fed with sugars(corn, sorghum or other sources), they consume the food and show significant growth. They can reproduce every 8 hours.

The company's researchers feed algae sugar, which the organisms then convert into various types of oil. The oil can be extracted and further processed to make a range of fuels, including diesel and jet fuel, as well as other products.

There are some people who contradict saying , this might actually not work the sugars may turn more expensive. However, there are some researchers who argue saying that , even if they use corn as a sugar source for algae,they are still left with the corn protein and corn oil which can be used. Similarly if starch is used, they can be further used for ethanol production.

Surprisingly ,sugar-fed algae grow more rapidly. Researchers claim that algae grown in the dark can reach densities that are 1,000 times higher than strains of photo-autotrophic algae that are grown in the light . One concentrated tank of heterotrophic algae is equivalent to growing 1000 tanks of photo-autotrophic algae.

This company announced that it has raised $52 million in a series D round, which brings investment bank Morgan Stanley into its list of investors. In addition to venture-capital companies, the venture arms of Chevron and Japanese food ingredient manufacturer San-Ei Gen also participated.

Last month, it delivered 1,500 gallons of jet fuel made from algae to the U.S. Navy for testing and certification. Solazyme is also making chemicals for food ingredients and health products where its oil can be used as a substitute. Even with the funding and contracts with the U.S. military, Solazyme still faces the challenge of commercializing its technology by bringing down the cost of its oils, particularly for fuels.

More from here - http://www.oilgae.com/blog/2009/02/solazyme-differs-from-its-competitors.html

What have scientists and algae companies got to talk about Genetic Enginnering of algae ? Posted by Sumukhi on Sun August 08 2010 07:10:28 PM 2

Many scientists, particularly those in the algae business, say the fears of using genetically engineered algae are overblown. Just as food crops cannot thrive without a farmer to nourish them and fend off pests, algae modified to be energy crops would be uncompetitive against wild algae if they were to escape, even inside their own ponds.

Instead of using open ponds, some companies are using bioreactors, which typically contain algae in tubes. Experts say these would not totally prevent escapes. Sapphire says it is not growing any genetically engineered algae in open ponds yet. Genetically engineered algae, whether in open ponds or enclosed bioreactors, are likely to be regulated by environmental protection law.

The opinion of a few scientists and companies have been highlighted below:

Groenwold - Scientist- University of North Dakota

We are not saying don?t do this,? said Gerald H. Groenewold, director of the University of North Dakota?s Energy and Environmental Research Center, who is trying to organise a study of the risks. ?We say do this with the knowledge of the implications and how to safeguard what you are doing.?

David Haberman - Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee

A week earlier, at an industry-sponsored bioenergy conference, David Haberman, an electrical engineer by training, served from 2000 to 2005 as a member of the Energy Department's Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel, (now known as the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee).

He has been a leading voice calling for an overarching risk analysis of genetically modified algae and its impacts to human health and environment.

Stephen Mayfield - Scientist - University of California, Co- founder- Sapphire Energy

?Everything we do to engineer an organism makes it weaker,? said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego, and a co-founder of Sapphire.

Dr Mayfield and other scientists say there have been no known environmental problems in the 35 years that scientists have been genetically engineering bacteria, although some organisms have escaped from laboratories.

David Haberman and Stephen Mayfield:

In a worst-case scenario, Haberman asserts, the genetically modified algae might even be used in weapons to destroy fisheries or make large numbers of people sick.

While Stephen Mayfield, says he foresees a future where GM algae research would be moved outdoors to open ponds, he said it is unlikely the engineered substance could compete with natural strains.

"If they get out, they won't do better than the local guys. We're trying to make these guys couch potatoes," he said. Changes biologists are making to the algae are designed to make them "big and fat and happy," to optimize their oil output, he said. When you do that, "they generally don't survive out in the world."

Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones - LiveFuels.

Algae replicate much more quickly than other GMO crops, echoed Livefuels' Morgenthaler-Jones. Livefuels is a California-based company working on turning natural strains of algae into biofuels

"With corn, you can expect one crop a year, but with algae, you could get one crop a day.

" Such strains from the lab have already leaked out into the environment in small quantities.

"They have been carried out on skin, on hair and all sort of other ways, like being blown on a breeze out the air conditioning system," she said.

However, there is no body that would be documenting that type of information, so it is unknown whether or not that assertion is well-founded. But if such algae are out there, she is not worried, she said. She doubts they could compete with existing natural strains of algae to make a go of it in the wild.

Stan Barnes - Bioalgene,

?Re-engineering algae seem driven more by patent law and investor desire for protection than any real requirement,? said Stan Barnes, chief executive of Bioalgene, one of those companies.

But others argue there are huge obstacles to making algae competitive as an energy source and that every tool will be needed to optimise the strains.

Richard Sayre - Phycal

Algae can reproduce rapidly, and can be carried long distances by the wind. ?They have the potential to blow all over the world,? said Richard Sayre of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.

Sayre, who is also the chief technology officer of Phycal, an algae company using genetic engineering to develop algae that capture less light.

He explained, If each organism captured less, then a given amount of light could be shared by more organisms, increasing biomass production.

Al Darzins - NREL

Before genetically modified strains are ready to debut in such ponds, however, regulators and researchers must answer a litany of questions about their potential environmental risks, said Al Darzins, a molecular biologist and principal group manager in bioenergy at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

"I'm absolutely convinced that if you're going to be using genetically modified algae in the future -- growing out in an open pond -- that before that happens on a very large scale there has to be some sort of risk assessment on what's going to happen to the potential ecology," he said.

Ari Patrinos - Synthetic Genomics,

Whether the algae escaped from the lab or an outdoor pond -- could be solved with genetic engineering, said Ari Patrinos, president of Synthetic Genomics, the company co-founded by J. Craig Venter, who helped sequence the human genome.

Patrinos' recommendation: engineering organisms that have "suicide genes" that would keep such species from surviving outside of the environment for which they were designed. Though he believes that could be done with current knowledge, he noted: "We aren't doing anything like that ourselves."

Currently, the outlook for GM algae in general remains unclear, said Synthetic Genomics' Patrinos. His company is still unsure if genetically modified algae will ever be a strong, cost-effective competitor with natural strains and is focusing much of its work on exploring natural strains, he said.

"We may wind up never having to use genetically engineered algae in open ponds at all," he said. "Research is research, and people explore all possibilities."

Craig Ventor - Scientist - Creator- Artificial Bacteria

The man behind the first self replicating artificial bacteria says ? Dr. Craig Venter says ? algae should be engineered with a ?suicide gene? to shut down if they escape.?

Jonathan Gressel - TransAlgae

Jonathan Gressel, TransAlgae's chief scientific officer, explained in an interview that its concept is to suppress genes that are not needed in the environment of algae cultivation, but that would be vital if the algae were to survive outside their regulated environment.

The algae could be designed without swimming flagella, with an inability to absorb carbon dioxide from the low levels in seawater or to have other enfeebling traits, depending on the gene.

Nofima Seeks Funds from Potential Industries for Aquaculture Research Posted by Sumukhi on Mon July 19 2010 09:07:01 AM 3

Nofima Ingrediens (http://www.nofima.no/en ), a business oriented research group working in research and development for the aquaculture, fisheries and food industry in Norway seeks a letter of intent from potential industries to to contribute to the project proposal to the Norwegian Research Council on the use of alternatives to fish oil lipid sources for fish feeds.

They possess a long time experience on serving the research needs of raw material/feed/food/animal producing industries and have also high quality expertise on biological issues of fish. Through this project, they aim to extensively study pellet quality,fish performance and health.


They also plan to test oil of different sources and one of thier main interests is algal products with high levels of essential fatty acids. They have applied for funds from the Norwegian government and for such project they are eligible for 80% and seek potential industries to fund the rest (20%).

The contributions from the industry can also be in the form of raw material supply, tests, consultancy and participation in project meetings in addition to the direct financial contribution.

The project partners do have not really commit to anything before the project is funded (decision expected end of 2010) until the contract and consortium agreement is signed.

In these projects where the industry is financing partly the research costs the rights of the different companies for the exclusive use of the results for an agreed period of time are taken care of. For example we can agree to publish something only following agreement among all project partners and/or after lets say 1-2 years after the end of the project (4 years duration). The deadline for the application is 1st September.

What will be needed in the first place from the industrial partners will be a letter of intention to contribute to the project with the amounts mentioned in the proposal if the project gets funded by the Norwegian Council of Research. A contact person and some company details will also be needed.

Some of the questions the interested parties might have and their answers are outlined below:-

What are they intending to in their research and the expected results?

The research part of this planned proposal is the Investigation of the effects of alternative fish feeds oil sources on fish health, welfare and performance. As alternative oils will be considered mainly micro algal oil, possibly animal fats and/or hemp oil or flax oil. Specific effects that will be investigated are the effects of the aforementioned oils on: salmon Immunology, Digestion/enzymology, Histology (liver, intestine), Performance (growth, composition) and Fillet quality. Effects on pellet quality during extrusion and storage will also be considered.

Which are the industries that could benefit from this research?

The industries that will benefit are the raw material producers (algal oil producers as e.g. bio fuel production by-product, animal by-product industries, hemp oil producers) by the documentation of the performance of algal and plant oils as ingredients in Atlantic salmon feeds.

What is the total estimated investment required?

The total project budget can be up to 320,000 USD per year for up to 4 years. Provided that the proposal will be funded by the Norwegian Research Council (Aquaculture Programme: deadline 1st of September) public funding will be up to 100% of the total budget. The project can be co-funded by industrial partners and strengthening considerably the proposal, ideally by 20% (or 64,400 USD per year all industrial partners together). The consortium so far includes researchers from Nofima Marine, Nofima Ingredients (www.nofima.no) and the Hellenic Centre of Marine Research (www.hcmr.gr).

How much funding have they secured as of now?

The decision for funding will be available by the end of 2010 for the project to start running since 2011.

How much funding will they require from private investors like companies or industries?

As mentioned above priority is given to projects that produce results with clear interest from the industry. In this case the industrial partners (oil producers, fish feed producers) all together must fund 20% of the total project costs which in this case is up to max 64,400 USD per year for 4 years (total max 257,600 USD). This amount can be split among the partners in different proportions. The initial stage of this application does not commit the industries to fund the research. The companies are invited to take part in the proposal preparation (mostly realised by the research institutes: 10 page max proposal). A tentative budget will be created for the contributions of the different partners and the proposal will be submitted to the Norwegian Research Council by the 1st of September 2010 noon time.

The evaluation of the proposals will be finalised until the end of the same year. Provided that the proposal is granted with funding by the Norwegian Research Council the consortium, budget and proposal text is called to be finalised and consortium agreements are signed by all partners.

How does the industries / investors benefit from your research?

In projects where the industry is co-funding the research, the research results are reserved for exclusive use by the respective organisations for an agreed period of time, e.g. during the project duration 1 or 2 years after the end of the project, providing extra benefits to the project sponsors against their competitors.

The partners have also the possibility and are encouraged to patent project results maximising their benefits. In any case, oil producers will benefit by entering a sustainable industry which has the capacity to absorb considerable amounts of raw material and the fish feed producers will acquire necessary information on the potential of using alternative to fish oil lipid sources in salmon feeds.

For those interested please get in touch with

Ms. Katerina Kousoulaki
Kjerreidviken 16, N-5141 Fyllingsdalen, Norway
Tel: 47 55 501 276 Mob: 47 47 910 710
katerina.kousoulaki@nofima.no / www.nofima.no

An Interview with Prof.Ben Amotz- an algae expert of Seambiotic Posted by Sumukhi on Wed July 14 2010 11:04:33 AM 34

Seambiotic, which is based out of Israel is an algae fuel company which grows algae in about eight shallow pools, covering about a quarter-acre which are filled with the same seawater used to cool the power plant.

A small percentage of gases are siphoned off from the
power plant flue and are channeled directly into
the algae ponds.

Here goes the interview of Prof. Ben Amotz, in the 2nd Algae World Europe Conversations. Prof Ben is the Chief Scientific advisor of Seambiotic with 30 years of experience in algae research.

Prof. Ben Amotz, you are one of the foremost phychologists in the world, and after 30 years of research, what do you think is the most attractive attribute of algae?

Algae by definition are related to the plant order, but in comparison to ?higher plants?, algae have 11 classes. Nevertheless, we have very little information about these classes relative to the higher plants. In the industry, we refer to it as the ?unexploited potential? of Algae.

I believe that Algae can provide many new products spanning medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and nutritional applications, over and above Algae and higher plant based products available today.

In your view, which of the latest innovations and developments in algae sector are exciting and relevant?

In Algae we don?t have such ?breakthrough developments?, we have grown quite slowly. Algae were grown mainly in the Far East (Japan and Taiwan) in the 50s, and it has been a slow process in development due to the difficulties to grow and harvest.

While innovations have been slow, they have been steady. Almost every year we get some new information or product from Algae, but there is no ?breakthrough?, like someone finding diamonds in Algae!

Seambiotic is the first company in the world to use flue gas from coal burning power stations for algae cultivation. Can you please tell us more about the production model?

The cost of producing Algae is quite high mainly because Algae uses carbon dioxide and fresh/sea water, which are quite expensive. After working so many years with Algae production for beta-carotene, we looked for alternatives to reduce the cost of production.

Today, we are able to use the waste of power plants. They include waste seawater used for cooling the turbines, and scrubbed flue gas emissions, which are clean enough for the growth of algae. Our model, which is new, uses the waste of the power plant, namely the seawater and the carbon dioxide to grow algae, thus saving a lot of money.

Why did Seambiotic choose open-pond cultivation system?

As of today, after 70 years of cultivation of algae, almost 100% of the commercial production of Algae is done in open ponds, and the issue of contamination is simply not true. It is possible to grow very concentrated biomass (clean like any agricultural product), without contamination. If we look at it from an agricultural point of view, the open pond also allows for better cultivation, fertilization, light concentration etc.

Of course, algae cultivation has to use land, but projects are often situated in land, like desert areas and marine areas, which is not used for agriculture, is cheap and found all over the world. That is the reason why almost all commercial Algae plants today use open pond production.

You have mentioned in a previous article that Israel doesn?t have enough land to support truly commercial-scale algae production. Where do you think is ideal?

Well Israel doesn?t have enough land to grow algae for biofuels because then we?ll need a lot of land. But Israel has enough land to grow Algae for high value products, in the order of 10 Ha facilities.

For Biofuels, we need hundreds or thousands of hectares of land, in areas where there is plenty of sun, easy access to seawater and large parcels arid land. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Baja California, Iran, Brazil and Australia come to mind.

What are other important factors to consider when choosing the location for a project?

The major factor for choosing the location of the site are concentration of Solar Radiation, access to Seawater, and Land availability, which is not used for urban or agricultural use, arid land with very low value and near seawater so it can be used for Algae cultivation.

We understand Seambiotic and NASA are collaborating in algae research, can you please tell us more about this project, and the progress so far.

NASA?s collaboration with Seambiotic came with the idea to use NASA?s aerodynamic expertise, and convert that to hydrodynamics. With the open pond system, we use water flow, and in principle, the hydrodynamics of water flow is very similar to aerodynamics. So NASA came with the idea that if we improve our hydrodynamics (water movement) we can significantly improve the productivity of our algae.

Preliminary experiments with NASA?s technology and design, I can confirm that it is actually true. The simple idea to improve the flow and mixing, we can increase the productivity of algae quite significantly.

What are the future plans for Seambiotic?

Seambiotic is constructing a 10 Ha plant in Israel, to produce fine chemicals, not for biofuels. We also recently signed a JV agreement with an electric power plant in China (one of the biggest power producers in the country), and we are currently constructing large-scale facilities for commercial algae cultivation in Yantai, China. This is the first time China & Israel are pursuing a joint venture in Algae production.

What do you make of the recent spike in interest for algal biofuel? Are there any misconceptions that concern you or even affect your work?

Algae biofuels gained popularity over the past few years because of oil price increases, and the search for green, alternative energy. Since there are concerns over insufficient food, the industry was not able to use higher plants, so the attention moved to Algae. Assuming that Algae does not use agricultural land and fresh water, and delivers the high enough levels of photosynthetic efficiencies, it will be viable to use Algae for biofuels and other uses.

How soon do you think we will see algae-based fuel in the market? And what are the main challenges that must be overcome for large-scale commercialisation?

It?s quite difficult to say how soon we?re going to see algae from biofuels in the market, but I know what the major limitations are!

The major limitations are actually the costs- both the cost of constructing the facilities, and the cost of production. As of today, the cost of production is quite high, so either the price of oil has to exceed $100/barrel, or the cost of producing algae has to fall below $100/barrel. When this happens, then we have a very good chance of using algae lipids to manufacture biofuels. So in my opinion it is all a matter of economics.

Open Pond is the most Viable option - Carbon Trust. Posted by Sumukhi on Sat April 10 2010 04:56:57 AM 10

Open ponds have a lot of contamination issues, excessive space requirements and limited location possibilities due to climate etc. However, the UK based algae biofuel research will be extensively carried out in open-ponds.These open ponds systems are cheaper to construct, at the minimum requiring only a trench or pond.Importantly, open pond cultivation can exploit unusual conditions that suit only specific algae.

For instance, Spirulina sp. thrives in water with a high concentration of sodium bicarbonate and Dunaliella salina grow in extremely salty water. Open culture can also work if there is a system of gather the desired algae and inoculating new ponds with a high starting concentration of the desired algae.

About 20 years back, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded in its Aquatic Species Program that open raceway ponds were the most viable solution for the mass production of algae for conversion into biofuels, but that it was much too early to determine whether open, closed or hybrid designs of growing algae would ultimately prevail.

Algae researchers of the UK have decided to go by the aquatic species program and hence have targeted pond as its source for biofuels. The leader of this pond-algae cultivation is Carbon Trust, collaborating with eleven leading institutes such as Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and Plymouth Marine Laboratory aiming to develop biofuels from pond-algae.

Carbon trust believes that the leading bioscience expertise UK possess will pave way for developing sustainable biofuels using algae as a feedstock . They expect that this could provide up to 80% carbon savings compared to diesel savings in car and jet fuel.

Carbon Trust claims it can analyse these different strains to identify those which can produce algal oils.The project will be funded by the Carbon Trust themselves who in turn will be funded by UK businesses, amounting to 8 million pounds and employing over 70 leading scientists.