Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Microalgae could be Texas' next big cash crop

07.07.2011
Just as corn and peanuts stunned the world decades ago with their then-newly discovered multi-beneficial uses and applications, Texas AgriLife Research scientists in Corpus Christi think microalgae holds even more promise.

"It's a huge, untapped source of fuel, food, feed, pharmaceuticals and even pollution-busters," said Dr. Carlos Fernandez, a crop physiologist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Corpus Christi who is studying the physiological responses of microalgae to the environment.

There are an estimated 200,000 to 800,000 species of microalgae, microscopic algae that thrive in freshwater and marine systems, Fernandez said.

Of all those species, only 35,000 species have been described, he said.

"We're only starting to scratch the surface of discovering the natural secrets of microalgae and their many potential uses and benefits," he said. "But already it's obvious that farmers will one day soon be growing microalgae on marginal land that won't compete with fertile farmland. They won't even compete for fresh water to grow."

To understand how best to grow it, Fernandez constructed a microalgae physiology laboratory to study how it's affected by temperature, salinity, nutrients, light levels and carbon dioxide.

"We have four bioreactors in which we grow microalgae to determine the basic physiological responses that affect its growth," he said. "We will then integrate these responses into a simulator model, a tool we can use in the management of larger, outdoor systems."

In this study, different strains of microalgae will be evaluated for their capacity to produce large amounts of lipids, or fats, that can then be converted to produce and refine diesel and other biofuels, Fernandez said.

"Along with that, after extracting the lipids from the biomass of microalgae, there is a residue that we are going to analyze for its quality for use as feed for animals, including fish, shrimp or cattle."

Eventually, studies will evaluate the possibility of using the residue as a soil fertilizer.

"There are lots of other potential uses for the residue, but for now our focus is on feed and fertilizer," he said.

The microalgae study includes other researchers, Fernandez said.

"We've just started this work and we're working closely with the nearby Texas AgriLife Mariculture labs in Flour Bluff, under the direction of Dr. Tzachi Samocha, and the one in Port Aransas, under the direction of Dr. Addison Lawrence."

Studying microalgae in the Corpus Christi area is a natural fit for many reasons, Fernandez said.

"We have immediate access to seawater to grow microalgae," he said. "Because we're so close to the Gulf of Mexico, we've got lots of marginal land in the area where microalgae can be grown on a large scale. We have lower evaporation rates than in arid areas so water replacement is less.

"There are local power plants and oil refineries in the area that we can use as sources of carbon dioxide that helps microalgae grow while reducing CO2 pollutants. And we have a wealth of higher education institutions in the area with huge potentials to help in these studies, including Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Delmar College."

AgriLife Research at Corpus Christi has partnered with the Barney M. Davis Power Plant to conduct this and other studies.

"It's a natural gas-operated power plant that is an excellent source of carbon dioxide from its flue gasses that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by passing them through microalgae systems," he said.

There also is the potential to partner with the City of Corpus Christi, which has several municipal water treatment plants in the area that can be used as sources of nutrients to reduce the cost of applying them to microalgae systems, Fernandez said.

"Our center director, Dr. Juan Landivar, took a huge leadership role in moving these microalgae projects forward by seeking and obtaining federal and private funding, and by encouraging teamwork and multi-disciplinary personnel to work on this," Fernandez said.

Rod Santa Ana | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht How much drought can a forest take?
20.01.2017 | University of California - Davis

nachricht Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>