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SDSU+ Wins Grant for NASA Biofuels Research

SDSU+ Wins Grant for NASA Biofuels Research

July 25, 2011
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Anew research project teaming South Dakota State University, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and Oglala Lakota College, funded by a $750,000 NASA grant, will study ways to use cyanobacteria to make energy-dense fuels and high-value chemicals, oxygen, and cleansed water directly from carbon dioxide, sunlight, and wastewater.

NASA awarded the grant to a project submitted through the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, though the largest share of the work will take place at South Dakota State University. Key SDSU researchers in the work include associate professor Ruanbao Zhou and professor Bill Gibbons in the Department of Biology and Microbiology; professors Kasiviswanathan Muthukumarappan and Gary Anderson and assistant professor Zhengrong Gu in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering; and assistant professor XingZhong Yan in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Researchers elsewhere include professors Robb Winter and David Salem at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and professor Deig Sandoval at Oglala Lakota College.

“This project will help NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate address the goal of providing renewable, energy-dense biofuels in a sustainable manner, while supplying technology to sequester carbon dioxide released by an astronautics crew,” Zhou said. “Cyanobacteria, through billions of years of evolution, have become well-tuned biological devices that can efficiently harvest solar energy, the one limitless source of energy on Earth, and convert that energy into a variety of reduced carbon compounds. Because of their simple requirements for rapid growth and ease of genetic manipulation as well as industrialized production, cyanobacteria are particularly attractive organisms for biofuel production.”

The project also proposes to develop an integrated photobioreactor and product recovery system, driven by solar power provided by light fibers; to strengthen collaborations with the NASA Ames Research Center to also improve performance of the Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae system; to enhance multi-disciplinary undergraduate and graduate education on molecular engineering, bioprocessing systems, and applied photonics, including Native American students; and to collaborate with industrial partners to promote economic development in South Dakota.

“Our initial target product is a long chain alcohol with a much higher energy density than ethanol,” Zhou said. “This cyanofactory platform could be easily reengineered to produce other fuels and chemicals using free solar energy and carbon dioxide.”

The grant was awarded through NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR. The program helps develop partnerships between NASA research missions and programs, academic institutions and industry. It also helps states establish long-term academic research enterprises that will be self-sustaining and competitive, and will contribute to the states’ economic viability and development.

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Wed July 27 2011 11:57:35 AM by Tomcatino 1656 views
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