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LED technology for algae productivity

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LED bioreactors Because food crops are also used for energy production, millions of people are threatened by starvation. Algae could provide an alternative: They only need sunlight to grow, thrive in salty water on barren fields. But it is a major challenge to exactly reproduce sunlight in the laboratory. In collaboration with the Berlin LED manufacturer FUTURELED scientists at the Technische Universität München have now developed a methodology for simulating all kinds of light situations. Scientists estimate that there are over 50,000 species of algae and cyanobacteria. Of these, 5000 are known. But, so far, only merely ten have been exploited with commercial success. Yet, since algae are so undemanding and thrive even in salt water basins set up on barren fields, they could help solve the problems posed by the utilization of food crops for energy production. "Algae grow much faster than soy beans or corn. They require neither fertile ground nor pesticides and have a ten-fold higher yield per hectare and year," says Professor Thomas Brück, director of the Department of Industrial Biocatalysis at TU München. Upon closer investigation of specific types of algae, the scientists discovered a variety of promising products. Many algae produce intermediate chemicals and synthesize protein mass and fats. While protein mass could be used as livestock feed, the fats could be converted into fuels. Breeding productivity But even within a single species, the ability to produce specific products varies widely. "In our investigations we keep seeing huge differences in productivity," says Thomas Brück. "So, we have to identify not only the right species, but must also cultivate the candidates with the highest productivity." In the context of their work, the researchers, in collaboration with the Berlin based company FUTURELED GmbH, have developed a unique combination of light and climate simulation to optimize algae cultivation. The system uses spectrum-tuned LEDs to simulate the natural spectrum of sunlight. Precise simulation - reliable prognoses "Nobody can really predict whether algae from the tropics will be as productive under German light conditions as in their native environment," says Thomas Brück. "Just as nobody knows whether candidates that work here will be equally successful in the light conditions of the Sahara. But now we can test all of these things in our laboratory." The highly efficient LEDs provide light with wavelengths between 400 and 800 nanometers and a radiation intensity of 1000 watts per square meter with an intensity distribution that very closely models natural sunlight. The various LED types can be controlled individually, allowing the researchers to program specific spectra. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-12-technology-enables-algae-productivity.html#jCp

Biochemistry detective work: Algae at night

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Chlamydomonas ACK and PAT venus fusion proteins   "Photosynthesis is probably the most well-known aspect of plant biochemistry. It enables plants, algae and select bacteria to transform the energy from sunlight during the daytime into chemical energy in the form of sugars and starches (as well as oils and proteins), and it involves taking in carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen derived from water molecules. Photosynthetic organisms undergo other types of biochemical reactions at night, when they generate energy by breaking down those sugars and starches that were stored during the day. Cells often face low-oxygen conditions at night, when there’s no photosynthesis releasing oxygen into the air and all photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic organisms in the environment are respiring oxygen. When this happens, some organisms such as the single-cell alga Chlamydomonas are able to generate cellular energy from the breakdown of sugars without taking up oxygen. They do this using a variety of fermentation pathways, similar to those used by yeast to create alcohol. Although critical to the survival of common aquatic and terrestrial organisms that are found all over the planet, many of the details regarding this low-oxygen energy creation process are poorly understood.

New work from a team including Carnegie’s Wenqiang Yang and Arthur Grossman, and in collaboration with Matt Posewitz at the Colorado School of Mines, hones in on the biochemical pathways underlying the special flexibility of Chlamydomonas in responding to oxygen-free and low-oxygen conditions. Other Carnegie co-authors include Claudia Catalanotti, Tyler Wittkopp, Luke Mackinder and Martin Jonikas. It is published by The Plant Cell.

In an arduous and exacting step-by-step process, the team used a series of specially created mutants to determine the importance of two identical branches of the fermentation pathway that are located in different compartments in the cell, both believed to be essential to dark, low-oxygen fermentation in Chlamydomonas. The pathways are dependent on four proteins, PAT1 and PAT2 and ACK1 and ACK2.

ACK1 and PAT2 are located in a part of the plant cell called the chloroplast, which is the compartment where photosynthesis takes place. ACK2 and PAT1 are located in the mitochondria, the organelle in plant and animal cells where sugar breakdown takes place.

“Surprisingly, we found that the chloroplast pathway is much more critical than the mitochondrial pathway for sustaining fermentation metabolism, even though generating energy from the breaking down of sugars is generally considered a mitochondrial process,” Grossman said."

  Read more of this article at:  http://www.rdmag.com/news/2014/11/biochemistry-detective-work-algae-night http://carnegiescience.edu/news/biochemistry_detective_work_algae_night   Image: Wenqiang Yang

Solaplast Grand Opening – Formulating the Potential of Algae

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Officials from bioplastics manufacturer ALGIX, LLC are holding a grand opening event today at the company's SOLAPLAST facility in Marion, Miss., in Lauderdale County. The project represents an $8.5 million corporate investment that will increase to $40 million and will create 100 jobs over the next three years.

ALGIX's new state-of-the-art facility features compounding equipment that utilizes the company's patent-pending technology to convert algae into bioplastic pellets that are used in injection molding applications.

"I appreciate the team at ALGIX for choosing to locate its new SOLAPLAST facility in Marion. Agribusiness and manufacturing are leading industries in Mississippi, and they contribute significantly each year to the state's economy," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "We have the infrastructure in place to ensure companies in these important sectors prosper, and I know east Mississippi will provide ALGIX with the resources needed to be successful in our state. I welcome the company as the newest business partner to the state of Mississippi and look forward to watching the company grow in the future."

"Plastics are a part of our everyday lives, but plastic waste is filling up landfills and polluting our lakes and oceans. As a result, ALGIX is committed to helping users lower their carbon footprint by providing bioplastic solutions utilizing aquatic feedstock," said ALGIX CEO Mike Van Drunen. "Our new Mississippi facility is in a strategic location for ALGIX as it is in the heart of America's aquaculture industry and is a key source for our algae feedstock."

"Today's grand opening of ALGIX's new facility is a testament to the state's strong, supportive business climate and to the quality of the workforce found all throughout Mississippi. MDA takes pride in optimizing its resources to best assist companies like ALGIX as they locate in the state or expand existing operations, and we are glad to have been a part of this project," said MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen. "We thank our partners at the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, the town of Marion, the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County for working to bring this great company to Mississippi."


ALGIX, LLC is developing sustainable methods and materials based on algae biomass for injection molding applications. Utilizing patent-pending technology, the company converts nutrient-rich wastewater into fast-growing aquatic biomass suitable for conversion into bioplastics. For more information, visit www.algix.com.


-                 News video: http://www.wtok.com/home/headlines/Solaplast-Formulates-Plastic-out-of-Algae-282877561.html See more at: http://www.noodls.com/view/5C942069BE80DFF5EAA7EF3E1629C928B40C0193?1xxx1416005702#sthash.4IXqzLq2.dpuf  

Seaweeds as sustainable protein substitions

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Dutch Seaweed Burger                     Dutch Seaweed Burger When Lisette Kreischer created the Dutch Weed Burger, a plant-based burger, she and her co-founder Mark Kulsdom didn’t just want it to be a vegan alternative to meat; they wanted to encourage people to rethink their consumption habits through the promotion of a food source that’s at the bottom of the food chain – seaweed. “We are now seeing that this method [of meat as a source of protein] is no longer sustainable towards the ecological system. The population is growing and so is the demand for proteins, but the Earth remains the same size; so we need to look at other sources,” says Kreischer, who believes that investing in synthetic, lab-grown burgers will only encourage people to keep wanting to eat meat. “Beans and other plant-based products are good sources of protein, but you still need agricultural land and fresh water to grow them ... Seaweed can be harvested in the sea.” "Eating seaweed is not a novel concept. Algae is a staple part of diets across Asia and in developing countries, and coastal communities have been benefiting from seaweed farming for centuries. In recent years, researchers have started to realise(pdf) that oceans need to play a greater role in the future of food. A 2010 Wageningen University study estimated that a seaweed farm covering 180,000 square kilometres - roughly the size of Washington State - could provide enough protein for the world’s population. And scientists at Sheffield Hallam University have previously concluded that seaweed granules could replace salt(pdf) in cheese, bread, sausages and processed food such as supermarket ready meals. Even though seaweed is constantly being touted as a superfood and has captured the imagination of trend chefs, there is generally still an aversion to eating it. Part of the problem is it’s a food that’s often been associated with poverty."     Continue reading at: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/nov/05/seaweed-burgers-snack-meat-consumption-resources

Highway Algae Cultivation

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A highway overpass is the last place most of us would think to install a farm. But algae, that wonderful little ecological miracle, is different. Since it consumes sunlight and CO2 and spits out oxygen, places with high emissions are actually the perfect growing area. Which is why this overpass in Switzerland has its own algae farm.

Built this summer as part of a festival in Genève, the farm is actually fairly simple: It thrives on the emissions of cars that pass below it, augmented by sunlight. A series of pumps and filters regulate the system, and over time, the algae matures into what can be turned into any number of usable products. According to the designers behind it, the Dutch and French design firmCloud Collective, those uses can range from combustable biomass to material for use in cosmetics and other consumer-facing products.

You can read more at:

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3038134/an-algae-farm-designed-to-suck-up-highway-pollution http://gizmodo.com/this-algae-farm-eats-pollution-from-the-highway-below-i-1653234583

Algae Highways

Alabama gets first world carbon negative algae biofuel

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Daphne Utilites

John Perry Barlow (left) and Rob McElroy inspect the algae system they hope to use to turn “sewage energy” into fuel.

Algae Systems LLC completed demonstration of a new biofuel production approach in early-August jointly with Japan’s IHI Corp. The process is based on the conversion of algae and wastewater to energy and clean water. A demonstration plant, located in Daphne, Alabama, combines wastewater with algae to produce the world’s first energy-generating wastewater treatment process, using carbon-negative technologies. This process will yield both bio-fuel and drinking water.

While algae is a component in a number of worldwide experimental production strategies, this approach will differ by using a system that can apply a variety of algae types to production, adding value by treating wastewater, and producing a drop-in fuel solution using hydrothermal liquefaction to produce fuels that do not need to be blended.

The production is being conducted by Algae Systems, which has operations based in Daphne, Alabama. Algae Systems is a group company of IHI Corp. based on a joint venture partnership with Algae Systems’ founders. The Daphne approach takes local strains of algae to increase production rates and optimize wastewater treatment opportunities. Most companies in the sector, as well as another IHI subsidiary, IHI NeoG (Kawasaki, Representative Tomohiro Fujita) use proprietary strains of algae that have high lipid outputs and need special attention. At Daphne, the approach is focused on a systems approach. Floating membrane photobioreactors accept wastewater from a local community municipal wastewater utility, drawing nutrients from the wastewater to promote algae growth. The algae consume nutrients in the wastewater, reducing the cost of treating wastewater. In this approach, municipal wastewater becomes an asset to produce energy, rather than a commodity to be expensively processed. Photosynthesis— a gift from the Sun— acts to create the chemical reactions that can power our future.

Finish reading the article at: http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/10863/algae-systems-announces-demonstration-project

Additional Sources: http://www.businessalabama.com/Business-Alabama/September-2013/The-Great-Mobile-Bay-Algae-Shake/ http://cleantechnica.com/2014/08/20/alabama-gets-first-world-carbon-negative-algae-biofuel/