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By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

DOE’s EERE announced an FOA of up to $35 million for bioenergy feedstock technologies and algae R&D. This FOA supports the White House’s priority to advance the domestic bioeconomy and DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BTO) goal to improve the performance and lower the cost and risk of technologies that can be used to produce biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. Topic areas include the characterization of municipal solid waste (MSW) to enable production of conversion-ready feedstocks and algae productivity exceeding expectations (APEX). The application process requires a concept paper and a full application. While concept papers must be submitted to DOE by February 1, 2021, the full applications are due on April 5, 2021.


By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

In March 2020, a paper by master’s degree student Anastasia Prosina titled “Algae-Based Printer Ink as the Way to Foster In-Situ Resource Utilization in Habitation Structures” was published in ResearchGate. Prosina’s paper, submitted to Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA), proposes that the most feasible long-term habitat off-Earth will consist of a 3D printed mixture of algae and regolith, the layer of unconsolidated rocky material covering bedrock. Proposed as an alternative to building structures in space that require intensive mining and sifting, the 3D printed mixture can be cultivated in a lab controlled by biological media. In addition, “[t]he utilization of algae off-Earth is not limited to a singular application and its cultivation would allow for a substantial yield of products, and local micro and macro environmental benefits.” According to Prosina, because of the high protein in and natural thermostatic qualities of algae biomass, this new printing mixture would allow for easier and safer production of everyday consumables, including clothes. Prosina’s paper outlines the benefits and complications of algae production and utilization processes, concluding that algae has the best potential for establishing long-term habitation on the Moon and Mars.


By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a model that predicts commercial biocrude outcomes from algae hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) significantly more accurately than previous analyses. “Techno-economic uncertainty quantification of algal-derived biocrude via hydrothermal liquefaction,” funded by DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), focused on  quantifying economic uncertainties, including algae composition and capital investment, and determined that higher total lipid content (including membrane lipid) yields more biocrude, which directionally reduces biocrude production cost.


By Lynn L. Bergeson

In February 2019, the University of Utah published the article Algal lipid extraction using confined impinging jet mixers.  The article outlines the University of Utah engineers’ latest discovery of a new method for rapid lipid harvesting which is essential to energy parity for microbial derived biofuels.  This newly developed technique is not only faster but also more efficient, and uses confined impinging jet mixers (CIJM) to improve lipid extraction from microalgae.  CIJMs extract lipids rapidly and continuously creating a multistage unit operation of mixers that enhances microbial biofuel production.


By Lynn L. Bergeson

In honor of Women’s History Month (March), DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) will be celebrating women working on bioenergy R&D projects at DOE’s national laboratories. Each week of March, BETO will highlight the contributions that these women make to strengthen the U.S. bioeconomy.  Activities include the promotion of female scientists and administrators that power BETO-funded bioenergy research on social media and a webinar titled “Women’s History Month/Women-in-Algae.”  The webinar is scheduled for March 14, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. (EDT) and will focus on DOE algae research and career opportunities.

Tags: DOE, BETO, Algae


By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 26, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the sponsorship of a new project to harness algae strains for bioenergy.  Called Development of Integrated Screening, Cultivar Optimization and Verification Research (DISCOVR), the project is a multi-laboratory consortium including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Sandia National Laboratories.  DISCOVR aims to identify and test high productivity microalgae strains for outdoor cultivation year-round through a standardized process for evaluating these strains for the production of cost-effective bioenergy.  The consortium has partnered with the University of Arizona’s Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (ACATI), and is inviting the algae industry and academia to contribute to the project.  Collaboration would provide an opportunity for interested parties to test their algae strains in DISCOVR’s standardized system and directly compare industry’s top-performing algae strains.

Tags: DOE, EERE, BETO, Algae


By Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 15, 2019, DOE BETO announced that a current study being funded by DOE BETO’s Advanced Algal Systems has been published by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The study researches strains found in a single culture of green algae that might be a candidate for biofuel production. Scientists are working to develop genetic engineering tools that would allow algae to grow faster, accumulating more biomass for biofuel. Further details on the research being conducted can be accesses here.



By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 17, 2018, researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its progress in accelerating the process of biofuel-making. Through the use of biotechnology, their research demonstrates that an enzyme, glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (GPAT) from the red algae Cyanidioschyzon merolae, can contribute to the biofuel production process. Algae is often used to produce biofuels because it contains high amounts of triacyglycerols (TAG) under certain conditions, which can be converted into biodiesel. Using Cyanidioschyzon merolae as a control strain, researchers at Tokyo Tech discovered that the reactions catalyzed by GPAT presence in this single-celled red algae “is a rate-limiting step for TAG synthesis […] and would be a potential target for improvement of TAG productivity in microalgae,” accelerating biofuel production.


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