The South Dakota institutions have won a National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant of $750,000 to 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.
Cyanobacteria are commonly known as blue-green algae.
NASA awarded the grant to a project submitted through the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, but 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.”
Because sunlight is available in space, life support systems that rely in part on photosynthesis to grow algae are one possibility for moving humans beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
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.
The researchers and NASA believe the project could provide "game changing" technology to NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. It could help resolve critical issues in what NASA calls its "Space Power and Energy Storage" and the "Human Health, Life Support and Habitation Systems" roadmaps — essentially summaries of what is needed to achieve national and agency goals in human space exploration over the next few decades.
The proposal addresses two of NASA's grand challenges — space colonization and affordable abundant power. The Exploration Systems Mission and Space Operations Mission Directorates will benefit by development of an integrated system that can support colonization missions by producing chemical building blocks and fuels from sunlight, wastes, and carbon dioxide; and by producing oxygen and clean water to maintain life support.
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 initial work that led to the grant award came from the proof of concept program developed by SDSU's Technology Transfer Office with funding made available through the Small Business Administration. Additional support has been provided by the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, the Center for Bioprocessing Research and Development, and the North Central Sun Grant Center.
Lance Nixon | Newswise Science News
Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals
23.05.2018 | Brown University
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy