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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2008-06-26 11:30:00
  • Article ID: 542130

Algae from the Ocean May Offer a Sustainable Energy Source of the Future

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Research by two Kansas State University scientists could help with the large-scale cultivation and manufacturing of oil-rich algae in oceans for biofuel.

K-State's Zhijian "Z.J." Pei, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, and Wenqiao "Wayne" Yuan, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering, have received a $98,560 Small Grant for Exploratory Research from the National Science Foundation to study solid carriers for manufacturing algae biofuels in the ocean.

Algae are a diverse and simple group of organisms that live in or near water. Certain algal species are high in oil content that could be converted into such fuels as biodiesel, according to Pei and Yuan. Algae also have several environmentally-friendly advantages over corn or other plants used for biofuels, including not needing soil or fresh water to grow.

Pei and Yuan plan to identify attributes of algae and properties of materials that enable growth of certain algae species on solid carriers. Solid carriers float on the water surface for algae to attach to and grow on.

"Not all materials are equally suitable to make these carriers," Yuan said. "Some materials are better for algal attachment and growth than others, and we will be identifying what those 'good' materials are."

The project could help with the design of major equipment for manufacturing algae biofuels from the ocean, including solid carriers, in-the-ocean algae harvesting equipment and oil extraction machines, Pei said.

"This research aims to develop a cost-effective process for growing algae on solid carriers in the ocean for biofuel manufacturing," he said. "If successful, it will greatly benefit the energy security of the United States, as well as society in general."

The research will be conducted with a two-step approach.

"Selected algae species will be grown on solid carriers in a simulated ocean environment and will be evaluated for their ability to attach to solid carriers and grow in seawater, their biomass productivity, and their oil content," Pei said. "Top-ranked species in step one will be selected to test the performance of several carrier materials, including natural organic, synthetic organic and inorganic materials, with the same evaluation parameters as in step one."

Pei said the properties of the highly-ranked carriers also will be analyzed.

Yuan, who has studied biodiesel for several years, said the major problem with making the fuel has been finding sustainable oil and fat sources.

"Algae seems to be the only promising sustainable oil source for biodiesel production," he said. "In my lab, we have several different projects involving algae and we have been trying different ways to grow it. We have already obtained some encouraging results."

Pei said the project also will have an educational benefit, with K-State College of Engineering graduate and undergraduate students to be involved in the multidisciplinary research.

Pei, a K-State faculty member since 2000, has expertise in new process development, process modeling of silicon wafering, and traditional and nontraditional machining processes. Pei earned his bachelor's from the Zhengzhou Institute of Technology and his master's from the Beijing Institute of Technology, both in China. His doctorate is from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Yuan, who joined K-State in 2006, has research interests in biofuels and biomaterials, diesel engine combustion and performance, and algae photobioreactor and bioprocessing systems. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from China Agricultural University, and his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Zhijian "Z.J." Pei, 785-532-3436, zpei@k-state.edu;

and Wenqiao "Wayne" Yuan, 785-532-2754, wyuan@k-state.edu

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Researchers Demonstrate Promising Method for Improving Quantum Information Processing

A team of researchers led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has demonstrated a new method for splitting light beams into their frequency modes, work that could spur advancements in quantum information processing and distributed quantum computing.

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Unprecedented characterization of subsurface electronic states could lead to better semiconductors and seeing new interactions.

Higher Income Level Linked to Police Use of Force Against Black Women

Black women with higher incomes are more likely to experience a forceful police interaction during a traffic stop, finds a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis."We found that the likelihood of exposure to each type of police use of force was significantly greater for black females with incomes over $50,000," said Robert Motley Jr.

Bringing a Hidden Superconducting State to Light

Using high-intensity pulses of infrared light, scientists found evidence of superconductivity associated with charge "stripes" in a material above the temperature at which it begins to transmit electricity without resistance--a finding that could help them design better high-temperature superconductors.

New Recyclable Resin Makes Wind Turbines Much More Sustainable

New composite materials make wind energy even greener by making the turbines themselves recyclable.

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Multiple techniques to characterize an enzyme complex shed light on how bacteria create particles and contribute to global cycles.

Physics Data Processing on NERSC Supercomputer Dramatically Cuts Reconstruction Time

In a recent demonstration project, physicists from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Berkeley Lab used the Cori supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center to reconstruct data collected from a nuclear physics experiment, an advance that could dramatically reduce the time it takes to make detailed data available for scientific discoveries.

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Berkeley Lab Report Calls for Industry Attention to Ensuring Grid Reliability

In light of changes in how electricity is being both generated and consumed, the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has written a new report analyzing challenges facing the nation's electric grid and making recommendations for ensuring continued reliability.

Missing Link to Novel Superconductivity Revealed at Ames Laboratory

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have discovered a state of magnetism that may be the missing link to understanding the relationship between magnetism and unconventional superconductivity.


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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, OHSU Create Joint Research Co-Laboratory to Advance Precision Medicine

News Release PORTLAND, Ore. -- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and OHSU today announced a joint collaboration to improve patient care by focusing research on highly complex sets of biomedical data, and the tools to interpret them.The OHSU-PNNL Precision Medicine Innovation Co-Laboratory, called PMedIC, will provide a comprehensive ecosystem for scientists to utilize integrated 'omics, data science and imaging technologies in their research in order to advance precision medicine -- an approach to disease treatment that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle for each person.

The Mysteries of Plasma and Solar Eruptions Earn PPPL Graduate an Astrophysics Prize

Article describes dissertation award for graduate of Princeton University Department of Astrophysical Sciences.

45-Year-Old Telescope Gets a Makeover to Demystify Dark Energy

Forty-five years ago this month, a telescope tucked inside a 14-story, 500-ton dome atop a mile-high peak in Arizona took in the night sky for the first time and recorded its observations on glass photographic plates. Today, the dome closes on the previous science chapters of the 4-meter Nicholas U. Mayall Telescope and starts preparing for its new role in creating the largest 3-D map of the universe. This map could help determine why the universe is expanding at faster and faster rates, driven by an unknown force called dark energy.

MSU Uses $3 Million NASA Grant to Find Better Ways to Regulate Dams

Michigan State University researchers, equipped with $3 million from NASA, will investigate innovative methods to improve dams so that they are less harmful to people and the environment.

Harker School Wins Second Consecutive SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl

Twenty-four teams from 16 Bay Area high schools faced off Feb. 3 in the SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl, a series of fast-paced question-and-answer matches that test knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences, energy and math. The competition is hosted annually by the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

David Asner Named Deputy Associate Laboratory Director and Head of the Instrumentation Division in Brookhaven Lab's Nuclear and Particle Physics Directorate

A particle physicist with extensive leadership and management experience, Asner will help expand a portfolio of physics programs and oversee instrumentation research and development.

UIC to Provide Energy-Saving 'Kits' with $3.1m in Funding From ComEd

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Energy Resources Center has received funding from ComEd to provide energy-efficient LED light bulbs, advanced power strips, and educational material to income-qualified participants in northern Illinois.As part of a $3.1 million year-long investment, the utility company will fund the Low Income Kit Energy (LIKE) program, allowing engineers at UIC's Energy Resources Center to provide energy-saving kits to 35,000 eligible individuals and/or families.

DOE's HPC4Manufacturing Program Seeks Industry Proposals

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Feb. 1 announced up to $3 million will be made available to U.S. manufacturers for public/private projects aimed at applying high performance computing to industry challenges for the advancement of energy innovation.

Elke-Caroline Aschenauer Awarded Prestigious Humboldt Research Award

UPTON, NY -- Elke-Caroline Aschenauer, a senior physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award for her contributions to the field of experimental nuclear physics. This prestigious international award--issued by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany--comes with a prize of EUR60,000 (more than $70,000 U.

Networking, Data Experts Design a Better Portal for Scientific Discovery

A team of networking experts from the Department of Energy's Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), with the Globus team from the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, have designed a new approach that makes data sharing faster, more reliable and more secure.


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Deep Dive Into How Electrons Behave

Unprecedented characterization of subsurface electronic states could lead to better semiconductors and seeing new interactions.

How Bacteria Produce Manganese Oxide Nanoparticles

Multiple techniques to characterize an enzyme complex shed light on how bacteria create particles and contribute to global cycles.

Meet the Director: Sergei Nagaitsev

This is one in a series of profiles on directors of the SC-stewarded user facilities. This profile features Sergei Nagaitsev, director of the Fermilab Accelerator Complex.

From 100,000 to 8: Representing Complex Aerosol Patterns with Far Fewer Particles

Study shows how aerosols interacting with clouds can be accurately captured by sparse set of representative particles.

Atomic Vibes During Melting?

Where does the heat go when a glass melts into a liquid? Not to changing the vibrations of atoms....

Taking Solar Energy to the Edge

Engineered stacked perovskite layers harvest light or create light via layer edges.

Putting the P in Photosynthesis of Tropical Forests

Including phosphorus in predictions of photosynthesis may improve models of tropical forests where the supply of the nutrient is limited.

Exploring Past, Present, and Future Water Availability Regionally, Globally

New open-source software simulates river and runoff resources.

Arctic Photosynthetic Capacity and Carbon Dioxide Assimilation Underestimated by Terrestrial Biosphere Models

New measurements offer data vital to projecting plant response to environmental changes.

DRIFTing to Fast, Precise Data

Non-destructive technique identifies key variations in Alaskan soils, quickly providing insights into carbon levels.


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