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From Plastic Pollution to an Algae Solution

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11.08.15

The University of Georgia recently reported on research results that estimates the amount of plastic pollution that is generated each year. “Their study, reported in the Feb. 13 edition of the journal Science, found between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2010 from people living within 50 kilometers of the coastline. That year, a total of 275 million metric tons of plastic waste was generated in those 192 coastal countries.” “Eight million metric tons is the equivalent to finding five grocery bags full of plastic on every foot of coastline in the 192 countries we examined.” UGA-infographic-plastic-waste ““We’re being overwhelmed by our waste,” she said. “But our framework allows us to also examine mitigation strategies like improving global solid waste management and reducing plastic in the waste stream. Potential solutions will need to coordinate local and global efforts.”(1) A viable solution: Algix’s Bioplastics from Algae Solaplast, a subsidiary of ALGIX, harnesses the potential of algae to make bio-plastics for the replacement of traditional petroleum-based plastics and for the reduction of biodegradable plastic costs. Our process includes innovations that reduce the environmental impact of plastic use and correct existing impacts from other sources. To our customers,  Solaplast can offer tremendous improvements to Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and can allow sustainability objectives to be reached. Solaplast’s products will certainly improve a customer’s green image and will also generate buzz around their products, garnering extra recognition within the plastics sector and from their consumers at the register. Most importantly, Solaplast can offer all of these environmental benefits while being cost competitive in the market place. Algix resin 2022 website picture Solaplast’s innovative product solutions revolutionize the polymer space by providing bio-based sustainable products that do not compete with food production and help to reduce negative environmental impact. This allows Solaplast to provide products that positively impacts of traditional bio-plastics (including carbon sequestration, smaller ecological footprints, reduced petroleum dependence, and improved end of life options) without impacting food pricing or food supplies. Solaplast also provides customers a number of application based cost reductions and technical benefits. The potential for Solaplast resin use exists for a number of applications, and here at Solaplast we are always interested in helping our customers meet their sustainability goals through our custom formulating services. Solaplast also offers toll compounding to pioneering companies who would like to leverage our extensive technical background and specially modified extrusion capabilities to make their product innovations come to life. Resources: 1. http://ugaresearch.uga.edu/research-news/8-million-metric-tones-of-plastic-enter-the-oceans-every-year-study/#sthash.qeeWO3gR.dpuf 2. http://algix.com/  

Bioluminescence: Study uses algal cells to ‘shed light’ on sensing mechanical forces

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11.08.15

Algae are known to congregate and bloom in massive numbers, covering patches of the ocean in thick red and brown blotches. Some of these “red tide” events create dazzling nighttime light shows of blue-green bioluminescence resulting from the force generated by breaking waves. While many mysteries remain on how such red tide blooms emerge, marine biologists are now making progress in decoding the mechanisms that trigger the effect of bioluminescence. Bioluminescense Algae 1 Marine biologist Michael Latz from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has been studying bioluminescence for more than 30 years and is now zeroing in on the forces that flick the “on” switch for bioluminescencent flashes in single-celled algae known as dinoflagellates. Dinoflagellates employ bioluminescence as a defense mechanism. They use the bright flash to ward off potential predators as well as call attention to the predators of their predators as a type of alarm. Dinoflagellates are equipped with an extremely fast response to stimuli, with bioluminescence produced only 15 milliseconds after stimulation. In a study recently featured on the cover and blog of Biophysical Journal, Latz and former Scripps postdoctoral researcher Benoit Tesson employed a state-of-the-art laboratory instrument called an atomic force microscope to study the force sensitivity of dinoflagellates with unprecedented resolution. They set out to measure the exact forces that trigger light production inside dinoflagellate cells, setting the specifications for the atomic force microscope, in which a calibrated lever was used to apply precisely controlled forces on individual dinoflagellate cells. Such diligence paid off, as the results identified the force conditions that were required to trigger the light. Cells responded to a minimum force of seven micronewtons, which, according to U.S. Navy physicist Jim Rohr, who is familiar with the study, is equivalent to the “weight of an ant resting on your skin.” natureslight_web-Tesson and Latz Bioluminescence Most interesting, the researchers say, was that if the same level of force was applied slowly, there was no response. The difference was due to the mechanical properties of the cells. According to a model they developed, at low stimulation speed the resulting energy was dissipated while at high speed energy was able to build up. “It is like the difference between pushing and punching; for the same applied force, at high speeds a deformable material acts stiffer and the shock is stronger,” said Tesson. The results will contribute to the use of dinoflagellate bioluminescence as a tool in engineering and oceanography to visualize flows that are difficult to study otherwise. As Leonardo da Vinci used grass seeds to observe water flow more than 500 years ago, scientists today use bioluminescence to naturally “light up” flow forces associated with jet turbulence, breaking waves, and the swimming movements of dolphins. Knowing the precise trigger point of light emission will aid studies in which bioluminescence is used to study flow forces. “Cells are sophicated integrators of the forces in their environment,” said Latz. “With these results we further our understanding of how the structural properties of these organisms affect their force sensitivity, and how force sensing evolved, because the system appears to have conserved elements that are used in force sensing by higher organisms, including humans.” So the next time you see how the red tide sparkles at night, Latz says, you can think of the algae as little force-sensing machines. The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, National Science Foundation, and UC San Diego Academic Senate funded the research. Use of the atomic force microscope was provided by Scripps Oceanography marine biologist Mark Hildebrand. Sources: http://news.algaeworld.org/2015/05/the-force-behind-bioluminescence-study-uses-algal-cells-to-shed-light-on-sensing-mechanical-forces/ http://www.cell.com/biophysj/abstract/S0006-3495(15)00169-1    

The streets were paved with algae: a greener material?

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11.08.15

Algae for asphalt The process of surfacing a road isn’t complicated. Layers of asphalt, which is composed mostly of bitumen (a byproduct of crude oil distillation), are poured over an aggregate of crushed stone and sand; the asphalt acts as a glue, binding the mixture together to form asphalt concrete. Maintaining the roads, however, is a costly job. According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance it would cost more than £12bn to restore all road networks in England alone to a reasonable condition. Simon Hesp, a professor and chemical engineer at Queen’s University in Ontario, believes standard industry asphalt is not sustainable. “The problem with the composition is that it’s poorly controlled … it uses materials with poor performances,” he says. Hesp says the presence of certain oil residues lowers the quality of the concrete and is a key reason why roads are failing and many potholes need to be filled and cracks fixed. But there’s not just a maintenance cost. Asphalt, dependent as it is on the oil industry, is resource- and energy-intensive, which is why the race is on to develop a greener alternative. In Sydney an experiment is under way using printer toner waste blended with recycled oil to produce an environmentally friendly asphalt. And in the past few years there have been studies into the development of non-petroleum bioasphalts. At Washington State University researchers developed asphalt from cooking oil, and last year academics at Wageningen University in the Netherlands found that lignin – a natural substance found in plants and trees – is another suitable replacement for crude oil bitumen. Other investigations have looked into the use of soybean and canola oil (rapeseed oil) and coffee grounds. The WSU research, led by Haifang Wen and published at the end of 2013, concluded that the introduction of cooking oil can increase bioasphalt’s resistance to cracking . Wenn also claims it’s possible that, if commercialised, such bioasphalts could cost much less per tonne. The price of standard asphalt can fluctuate wildly as it’s dependent on the price of oil. Hesp isn’t convinced that cooking oil is the way forward. He says, like petroleum, over time it will cause roads to fail because of weak bonds. Bruno Bujoli, director of research at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), agrees that the use of cooking oil “chemically modified to reach appropriate mechanical properties” could significantly affect quality. He also sounds a note of caution about food security, saying that asphalt based on vegetable oils could, if scaled up, affect food stocks Bujoli recently played a key role in developing a bioasphalt from microalgae. It uses a process known as hydrothermal liquefaction, which is used to convert waste biomass, including wood and sewage, into biocrude oil. The chemical composition of the microalgae bioasphalt differs from petroleum-derived asphalt, but initial tests have concluded that it also bears similar viscous properties and can bind aggregates together efficiently, as well as being able to cope with loads such as vehicles. How it will perform over time is yet to be determined. The findings were published in April. Green roads Bujoli suggests that microalgae – also known for its use in the production of cosmetic and textile dyes – is a greener and more appropriate solution than agricultural oils. The latter, he says, should be kept for food production. “The benefits of microalgae over other sources include low competition for arable land, high per hectare biomass yields and large harvesting turnovers. There is also the opportunity to recycle wastewater and carbon dioxide as a way of contributing to sustainable development,” he adds. It’s a neat idea, with an admirable green mission behind it, but how much of an impact can it really have? Technology such as this is still in its infancy, suggests Heather Dylla, director of sustainable engineering at the National Asphalt Pavement Association, a US trade organisation for the paving industry. “A lot of interesting work is being done in this area, looking at everything from algae, to swine waste, to byproducts from paper making. It’s worth exploring these alternatives, but we need to be sure they provide equivalent or improved engineering properties. We need to understand how they affect the recyclability of asphalt pavement mixtures,” she says. She points to the “unique” advantage of asphalt when it comes to recycling. “Not only are the aggregates, which make up about 95% of [asphalt concrete], put back to use, but the bitumen can also be reactivated and used again as the glue that holds a pavement together.” Microalgae could yet put the paving industry on the road to a greener future. For now though, there are plenty of challenges – from price to scalability – for Bujoli and his team to address if the bioasphalt is to be commercialised. “This is our research focus for the near future. Our current laboratory equipment works in a batch mode,” explains Bujoli. “Scaling up the process will require the design of a large-volume reactor that can operate under continuous flow conditions.” Read more at: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/jun/08/from-oil-to-algae-eco-friendly-asphalt-could-be-the-route-to-greener-roads

Ancient Algae is Discovered in Tropical Mountain Ice Cap

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11.08.15

diatom-peru-zoom Microscopic algae buried in a tropical mountaintop ice cap are helping researchers better understand what the environment was like more than a millennium ago. Finding diatoms — which are single-celled algae — in an ice cap high atop the Andes in Peru came as a surprise to the researchers, who originally intended to examine their ice samples for possible carbon content. This is the first time researchers have found diatoms in glacial ice from a tropical region, according to the study. Scanning electron microscope photograph of a freshwater diatom found in the Quelccaya Ice Cap on the Andes in Peru. Diatoms, which are a fraction of the width of a human hair, can typically be found wherever there is water. Some are generalists, requiring only water, while others are pickier, living exclusively in salty or fresh water, or thriving only where the levels of certain nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, are low or high. Regardless of where they are, the organisms are usually at the bottom of the food chain in their habitat. Diatoms had previously been found in glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, and other polar and alpine regions, said lead author Sherilyn Fritz, a professor of geosciences at the University of Nebraska. Fritz said that the diatoms in Greenland's glaciers got there by latching onto dust particles in North America and travelling to Greenland on wind power as part of the system involving global dust circulation. In contrast, the new research suggests that the diatoms found in the Quelccaya Ice Cap in the tropical Andes of southern Peru had a much shorter commute, Fritz told Live Science.  The researchers think that these diatoms likely originated in one of the many nearby high-altitude lakes or freshwater wetlands, because most of the diatoms that the researchers found, like Brachysira vitera and Aulacoseira alpigena, are specific to such habitats. Mountaintop regions are notoriously windy — the diatoms may have been swept up from the lakes by the wind and carried to the icy mountaintop. Eduardo Morales Luizaga, an adjunct professor and expert in diatoms at the Universidad Católica Boliviana San Pablo Regional Cochabamba in Bolivia, who was not involved in the study, agreed that the wind might have carried the diatoms. But it's also possible that birds and other animals that drank or bathed in a nearby lake might have carried the diatoms — on feathers, feet or fur — to the glacier, or to the small ponds that can form on the ice during warmer periods. When the temperature drops, it traps the diatoms in an icy tomb, he said. Although not as abundant, the researchers also found diatoms from global dust in the ice. However, these diatoms were so excellently preserved that it is unlikely they had traveled very far, the researchers said. The core that the researchers analyzed was taken from around 480 feet deep (140 meters), and included ice that was deposited over a span of almost 2,000 years. The oldest diatoms found in the ice dated to the dawn of the Middle Ages, during the sixth century, and the younger diatoms dated to the later Middle Ages, during the 12th Century. Lonnie Thompson, a professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and an expert on ice core paleoclimatology, collected the Quelccaya Ice Cap samples in 2003. The discovery of the diatoms in the ice shows that tropical glaciers have potential for researchers to investigate "how not just diatoms, but other life forms such as ancient microbes survived, thrived and evolved under extreme conditions and under very different climatic regimes," he said in a statement. Fritz said she was concerned about the rapid climate change-induced melting of the ice cap, and the implications of this for the local people who depend on the ice for water, as well as future paleo-environment research. She said that the ice is "very hard-won, and there's not much of it." The study was published in May in the journal Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. Read more at: http://www.livescience.com/51132-ancient-algae-tropical-ice-cap.html

Algae Biomass Organization Announces New Board Chair and Vice Chair

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11.08.15

ABO WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Aug 6, 2015) - The Algae Biomass Organization, the trade association for the algae industry, today announced that Martin Sabarsky, CEO of Cellana, has been appointed Chair of the organization's Board of Directors for the 2015-2016 term, and Jacques Beaudry-Losique, Senior Vice President of Corporate and Business Development at Algenol, has been appointed Vice Chair. Previous Chair, Tim Burns, Co-founder and Board Member of BioProcess Algae LLC, remains on the board. Sabarsky and Beaudry-Losique will build on the solid work of their ABO predecessors to guide the algae industry as its member companies continue to build out a competitive supply chain for a plethora of products, from fuels and feeds to chemicals and nutraceuticals while also providing a novel -- and economically viable -- pathway for utilities to reduce their overall emissions through carbon capture and utilization. ABO's board guides the organization in its mission to educate the general public, policymakers, and industry about the benefits and potential of algae to provide sustainable solutions for commodity chemicals, fuels, food, and feed applications, as well as for high-value applications such as nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics among other applications. In addition, ABO's board works closely with its Executive Director to advocate for policies that can accelerate the development of key market segments and commercial-scale algae production facilities for the full range of products that can be made from algae. ABO's board comprises representatives from multiple sectors of an industry that is experiencing more investment and seeing new commercial facilities opening or being planned around the world. Board members come from industry sectors that include academia, professional services, algae biomass producers, technology suppliers, project developers, and end-users. "Martin and Jacques are respected leaders in the algae industry, and I look forward to working with them as we position algae technologies to have wide-ranging impacts in dozens of markets," said Matt Carr, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Algae Biomass Organization. "They are both existing board members, and their experience and organizational knowledge will help ABO open markets, develop investment opportunities, and advocate for policies that will accelerate this cutting-edge industry. Outgoing Chair Tim Burns deserves thanks for his invaluable leadership and hard work. I look forward to working with him as he continues his service on the board." Martin Sabarsky has more than 15 years of experience in the industrial biotechnology/cleantech industry and has served since 2011 as the CEO of Cellana, a leading developer of algae-based nutritional and energy products. Prior to joining Cellana, he led the corporate development function at Diversa Corp. (now known as Verenium Corp., a subsidiary of BASF) as Vice President of Corporate Development. Before Diversa, Sabarsky worked as a life sciences investment banker with Bear Stearns, where he was a lead banker on Diversa's $200 million IPO in 2000. He also worked as a transactional attorney with Latham & Watkins LLP. Sabarsky has a B.A. in Biology and Political Science from Brown University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.B.A. from the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego. Jacques Beaudry-Losique has more than 25 years of experience working in the energy and technology sectors and is the Senior Vice President of Corporate and Business Development at Algenol, a global technology developer of algae-based carbon emissions solutions and fuel production. Prior to Algenol, Jacques was the Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategy for Codexis, a publicly traded biofuels and biopharma company. From 2005 to 2011, he held senior management positions at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). While at the DOE, he led efforts to build a second-generation biofuels industry across two administrations, managed three clean energy programs, and served for two years as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy. He was also instrumental in decisions to invest more than $1.5 billion of Recovery Act funds in renewable energy projects, including $800 million in biofuels projects. He holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Montreal, an M.S. in Engineering Management from Stanford University, and an M.S. in Management from MIT. Products made from algae are the natural solution to the energy, food, economic, and climate challenges facing the world today. This tiny but powerful organism has the ability to simultaneously put fuels in vehicles, reuse CO2, provide nutrition for animals and people, and create jobs for millions of Americans. More information can be found atwww.allaboutalgae.com. About the Algae Biomass Organization The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) is a 501(c)(6) non-profit whose mission is to promote the development of viable commercial markets for renewable and sustainable commodities derived from algae. Its membership includes more than 150 individuals, companies, and organizations across the value chain. More information about ABO, including its leadership, membership, costs, benefits, and members and their affiliations, is available at the website:www.algaebiomass.org.