ANN ARBORA team of University of Michigan researchers has been awarded a $2 million federal grant to identify and test naturally diverse groups of green algae that can be grown together to create a high-yield, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective system to produce next-generation biofuels.
National Science Foundation funding for the project begins Sept. 1 and will continue for four years. The effort will involve growing various combinations of lake algae in 180 aquariums at a new one-of-a-kind U-M laboratory, then field-testing the most promising candidates inside 80 fiberglass cattle tanks at the university's E.S. George Reserve, a 1,300-acre biological research station near Pinckney, Mich.
The main goal is to test the idea that certain naturally diverse groups of algae have complementary traits that enhance the efficiency and stability of biofuel yield beyond what any single species can do alone. The project involves an unusual collaboration among ecologists, evolutionary biologists and engineers from four labs that will include about 20 researchers and students.
"People have suggested that species diversity might increase the efficiency of algal biofuel systems, but nobody has set up the experiments to test it directly. These will be the first experiments to systematically manipulate the number and types of species in the system to determine how to maximize the yield and stability of algal biofuel," said ecologist and team leader Bradley Cardinale, an associate professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Researchers have been trying to make affordable transportation fuels, such as biodiesel and jet fuel, from algae for several decades. Most of the work has focused on finding single algal strains that are highly productive, as well as identifying the ideal mix of nutrients and environmental conditions. Genetically engineered "super-species" have even been created in an effort to boost yields
|Contact: Jim Erickson|
University of Michigan