Sandia invites collaborators in quest for renewable fuels
To make algae biofuels more competitive with petroleum, growers must increase productivity and keep their ponds from crashing. That’s why Sandia and partners are inviting participants to help in the search for the toughest algae strains and most innovative farming techniques.
Though algae sometimes bloom uncontrollably in the wild, it can be difficult to keep them thriving when grown at large scale as a bioenergy crop. Since 2017, Sandia has tested strains of algae for their resistance to disease and grazers, which are organisms that eat algae, as part of the Development of Integrated Screening, Cultivar Optimization
Project partners in the first phase of
Sandia project lead Todd Lane explained that this a great opportunity for companies that cannot conduct research on their algae technology at the scale that the
Hoping to encourage potential collaborators, Todd said, “If you’ve got a technology or strain that you think is a winner, we’ll help you prove it.”
Promoting algae productivity
Making algae-growing operations more productive is essential to lowering the cost of algae-based biofuels and products. According to Todd, two main factors affect productivity: the growth rate of the algae; and the stability of an
These two factors cannot work independently. Even if the algae grow quickly in the short term, a company will have to sterilize its equipment and start a new crop if a pond crashes, causing delays, additional costs and diminished annual returns. An estimated 30 percent of production on algae farms is lost each year to pond crashes, during which previously healthy algae die, Todd said.
Sandia has expertise in algae crop-protection strategies and is the
To date, Sandia has tested 18 algal strains against a diverse panel of grazers, and then further tested the strains with the most prolific growth rates in 1,000-liter ponds under simulated, outdoor-cultivation conditions. As part of this new phase of the
Ultimately, the researchers hope to learn the biochemical and physical characteristics of the toughest, most prolific algae strains, so they can identify which strains will be grazer-resistant from their physical properties and reduce the need for the strains to be tested.
Rare opportunity for companies and inventors
Having the resources of major, experienced research teams available to prove the strength and efficacy of private research is rare. Todd urged those who believe they have developed or discovered the toughest algae strains or most innovative algae farming techniques to apply for the program.
This project is sponsored by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Ultimately, data gathered for