The paper industry has a reputation of negative environmental impacts from its use of natural resources to the amount of pollutants produced during the paper-making process. “In 2006, the US pulp and paper industry generated over 200 million pounds of hazardous wastes, including TRS and VOCs.” (1) How can algae effect any part of this process? Algae cellulose can be added to make paper with very similar characteristics to wood cellulose paper. It is a project of the ECOWAL research group from the Pablo de Olavide University in Seville. They use different types of algae to avoid the use highly contaminant products in conventional paper production. The result is a paper with similar characteristics to the one obtained from wood. In addition, these researchers study possible applications of this algae cellulose both in the pharmaceutical and the cosmetics industries. You can watch the video at: http://www.andalusianstories.com/the-story-of-the-day/sustainability/news-andalusia-paper-algae/ Sources: http://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/june2011/papermill.htm http://ecowal.webnode.es/
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
"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
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
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
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
News of toxic algal blooms have been increasing over the past several years. Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, can occur in fresh water as well as marine water. Also, the species causing the bloom can be from a variety of microalgae strains. HABs can “affect global coastal regions, and some algal toxins can cause diarrheic, paralytic, amnesic, and neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, thereby endangering human health and negatively affecting the tourism industry and fishery resources.” (1) Image 1: Algal Blooms (2) “HABs occur naturally, but in recent years nutrient-rich agricultural runoff, transport of HAB species via ship ballast water, coastal aquaculture farms (which both introduce nutrients and are in turn threatened by blooms), and climate change appear to have contributed to an expansion and intensification of HAB activity worldwide. Heightened awareness and improved detection of HABs also have led to increased numbers of reported events in recent years.”(3) “HABs come in a variety of forms and cause harm in different ways. Concentration of nontoxic algae can deplete waters of oxygen and irritate fish gills, while toxin-producing species can accumulate quickly and seemingly without warning in fresh- and saltwater bodies, posing a threat to humans, fish (including some commercial species) mammals, and birds.”(3) The need for rapid identification of the blooming algal species would be most beneficial. Mass spectrometry methods are able to identify and characterize microorganisms with accuracy and speed. This new study tested a specific type of mass spectrometry called, MALDI-TOF MS, which stands for Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) with Time Of Flight (TOF) mass spectrometry (MS). This method is currently been used to detect ribosomal protein mass patterns for the confirmation of pathogens. The efficacy of using mass spec with identifying 8 strains of microalgae was tested. Heterocapsa, Alexandrium, Nannochloropsis, Chaetoceros, Chlorella, and Dunaliella spp. were used for analysis. The spectral fingerprinting allowed rapid identification of the species. MALDI-TOF MS was compared to other methods of identification, morphological observations and phylogenetic analyses. The method of using morphology is not as straight-forward and accurate. Several strains displayed similar morphologies which would make identification difficult. The method is also more time consuming and costly in contrast to MALDI-TOF MS. Phylogenetic analysis could effective separate each of the species to taxonomy. The analysis is still time consuming and costly after comparing it to the methodology of MS. The protein profiles were obtained for the 8 species from the range of 2,000 to 20,000 Da. The protein profiles can be used as a reference for quickly identifying an algal bloom species in the future. One benefit of using this method is the quick identification between toxic and nontoxic algal blooms. The MALDI-TOF MS application is able to identify proteins only if they are available in high quantity. Image 2: Mass spectra for proteins from 2,000 to 20,000, strains J3, J18, J28, J31, J32, J34, and strain J37. Source: 1. LEE, H; et al. Phylogenetic analysis of microalgae based on highly abundant proteins using mass spectrometry. Talanta. 132, 630-634, Jan. 15, 2015. ISSN: 0039-9140. 2.SMITH, EA; BLANCHARD, PB; BARGU, S. Education and public outreach concerning freshwater harmful algal blooms in Southern Louisiana. Harmful Algae. 35, 38-45, May 2014. ISSN: 15689883. 3.SELTENRICH, N. Keeping Tabs on HABs: New Tools for Detecting, Monitoring, and Preventing Harmful Algal Blooms. Environmental Health Perspectives. 122, 8, A206-A213, Aug. 2014. ISSN: 00916765.
Earlier this year, a study was done on the effects of space on photosynthesis and plant growth. “Previous studies on higher plants performance in space reported an overall decrease in photosynthetic activities, mainly due to the microgravity associated lack of convection forces, resulting in alteration in the gases, water, and small molecular exchange.” (Giardi, M., et al.,2013) The study introduced plant physiologist Autar Mattoo of the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS). He placed the samples of the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (C. reinhardtii) in airtight photo cells and then they were launched in a Russian-made Soyuz space capsule in Kazakhstan. “C. Reinhardtii has been previously used as a candidate in oxygenic photosynthesis and can adapt to environmental extremes on Earth. Also, this species was chosen for the easy access for the amino acid substitutions for the D1 protein.” (Giardi, M., et al.,2013) At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Soyuz rocket is being prepared for launch. The Foton-M2 capsule containing the mutant algae samples is held in the green nose of the rocket. “Unicellular organisms sent on a space flight underwent alterations in growth rate, developmental cycle and morphological characteristics. Current state of knowledge presents space as an intrinsically complex environment, whose components interact to dramatically affect living matter while effects of individual components have been difficult to discern. The importance of the Earth magnetic field in maintaining photosynthetic efficiency, chlorophyll accumulation levels, and protecting PSII functionality in photo inhibitory conditions has been alluded to. (Giardi, M., et al.,2013) The four mutants of C. Reinhardtii with specifc gene alterations were sent up in orbit for 15 days. The goal was to alter certain components of the photosynthesis process so ultimately the species could potentially still have a successful harvest under adverse environmental conditions. Two of the four mutant strains of C. Reinhardtii flourished in space and after the return to earth. Another finding was the space environment limited the ability of the control C. reinhardtii. (Mattoo A., 2014) In Kazakhstan, not far from the Russian border, the Foton-M2 capsule is back on Earth after more than 2 weeks in space. Another aquatic species, Ulva, has been proposed as a candidate for space agriculture as well. The idea is to grow marine macro-algae and harvest potassium and other minerals from composted human waste. Ulva is known to grow in both high and low salinity levels than normal seawater. Intracellular concentrations of K in Ulva is 20 times higher than seawater which makes Ulva a good candidate for space agriculture.” (Yamashita M., 2009) Fig.3 - Ulva References: 1. Mattoo A. Taming Extreme Environments by Exploring Algae in Space. Agricultural Research [serial online]. May 2014;62(5):12-13. Available from: Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 9, 2014. 2. Giardi, M. et al. 2013.Mutations of Photosystem II D1 Protein That Empower Efficient Phenotypes of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii under Extreme Environment in Space. PLoS ONE;May2013, Vol. 8 Issue 5, p1 3. Yamashita M, Tomita-Yokotani K, Hashimoto H, Sawaki N, Notoya M. Sodium and potassium uptake of Ulva – Application of marine macro-algae for space agriculture. Advances In Space Research [serial online]. April 15, 2009;43(8):1220-1223. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 14, 2014. 4. Ulva picture from wikipedia
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-projectAdditional 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/
Parasites in Algal Biomass As algae cultivation continues to grow worldwide, the prevalence of parasites in algae will be a more widely reported problem. Parasites are a potential limiting factor as many algal operations scale up for mass algae production. The vast majority of marine parasites have yet to be discovered. “Grazing by ciliates, amoeba, rotifers and other zooplankton taxa has a significant influence on natural aquatic ecosystems and they are critical to the functioning of the marine food web.” “A prerequisite for any control measure is the early detection of grazers before they have adversely effected productivity of the algal crop.” (2) “In fresh water, zoosporic fungi (Chytridomycota) and fungi-like organisms (including oomycetes, labyrinthulids, thraustochytrids and phagomyxids) are well known to parasitize microalgae.”(1) Chytrids are an infamous fungal contamination that damages the Haematococcus pluvialis species. Chytrids have thick walls which are protective against various chemical treatments. Fig.1 Growing parasite infection in H. pluvialis. “Oomycetes have caused losses to the seaweed industry that range from 10 to 60% annually for some countries.”(1) “Reported infection frequencies by the oomycetes Ectrolgella and Lagenisma in natural populations of marine diatoms have ranged from <1 to 99%..”(1) Labyrinthulids belong to the fungal class Labyrinthulomycetes. This species is frequently known as slime molds, which are parasitic to marine algae species, such as Nannochloropsis sp. (1) Amoebeas are vampyrellids which penetrate the algae cell walls in order to remove the cellular content. (1) Other Parasites Syndiniales infect bloom-forming dinoflagellates, which causes cell death without repopulation. Amoebophrya sp. were discovered to “survive in dormant cysts of their hosts for many months causing immediate reinfection cycles as soon as the cysts emerged...”(1) Detection Methods of detection include microscopy and staining, flow cytometry, molecular based detection and monitoring. Microscopy and staining Various stains have been successful for identifying certain parasites. Calcofluor white is used to stain chytrids, by staining the chitin in the cell wall. The fungi must contain chitin in order to be stained. Some species that have high cellulose content are problematic for the Calcofluor because the cellulose can be stained along with the chitin content. Also, congo red has been used to stain oomycetes in seaweed and could be used in the identification of parasites. Fig. 2 Early detection of an invasive species. Flow Cytometry FlowCAM or flow cytometry and microscopy system, is used to detect particles in the 20-200uM size range. The FlowCAM system has been used to monitor algal mass culture systems for the detection on algal contamination. One species, the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, was studied with " a flow-cytometer that employs continuous digital imaging to measure the number, size, and shape of microscopic particles in a fluid medium, to provide early warning of ciliate contamination of N. oculata cultures.” (2) “A FlowCAM flow-cytometer was used to detect all grazers investigated (size range <20->80 µm in length) in the presence of algae. Detection limits were <10 cells ml-1 for both “large” and “small” model grazers, Euplotes vannus 80 x 45 µm) and an unidentified holotrichous ciliate (~18 x 8 µm) respectively. Furthermore, the system can distinguish the presence of ciliates in N. oculata cultures with biotechnologically relevant cell densities: i.e. >1.4 x 10^8 cells ml-1 (>0.5 gl-1 dry wt.).”(2) “FlowCAM has the capacity to recognize and identify grazers (ciliates, amoebae and heterotrophic dinoflagellates) in very dense cultures of N.oculata, a potential algal biofuel production strain. The system was capable of detecting large and small ciliates at densities <10 cells ml-1. The detection approach developed could be employed in future algal mass-culture plants where automated grazer detection systems will be required that trigger management systems capable of controlling, or removing the threat to productivity.”(2) The FlowCAM offers a real-time monitoring solution with a wide selection of microbes that can be identified. Molecular-Based Detection and Monitoring Modern molecular methods can be used for the identification and detection of parasite in algal mass culture systems. The three main target regions for detection are the small subunit (SSU) rRNA large subunit, (LSU) rRNA genes, and the internal transcribed spacer (ITS). (1) The SSU rRNA gene has nine hypervariable regions, V1-9. The regions V4 and V9 are the most used for phylogenetic analysis of eukaryotes. The regions, D1 and D2 in the LSU rRNA gene are also used for phylogenetic analysis. The SILVA database has a repository of SSU and LSU rRNA gene sequences. The ITS region is used for accomplishing finer levels of phylogenetic discrimination that utilizing two hypervariable spacers, ITS1 and ITS2, 5’, and 3’ of the gene encoding the 5.8s ribosomal subunit. There are online databases of ITS sequences that can be accessed such as UNITE, (http://unite.ut.ee/).(1) Solutions Solutions for parasitic removal include salvage harvest, chemical agents, physical methods, biological methods: selective breeding and biological agents. Once contamination is detected, the least expensive method for disinfection is to harvest the algal biomass. Disinfection is required before reuse of the system. Open ponds may be limited to solar drying as a method for amelioration of infection. The use of abscisic acid (ABA) which is naturally produced in some life cycles of algae can be effective against parasite infections. The addition of copper sulfate has been reported for the stimulation of algal growth and as a fungicide that can be effective against chytrids. Also, ozone has been used in water treatment. Another proposed recommendation for treatment is using the method of sterilization by ultra violet radiation. However, neither method has not been researched on algal parasites.(1) Sonication has been suggested for physical disruption of the invasive contamination. The success of this method may depend on the cell size of the target species in comparison to the host species. Also, selective breeding of the microalgae can help promote an algal strain that is resistant for infection. A genetically modified strain, while having better resistance to infection, may not perform as well in other areas. Prevention The Ketura facility in Israel, which grows H. Pluvialis, has experienced a culture collapse due to contamination with zoospores. Fig. 3 Astaxanthin culture collapse with a parasitic infestation. From that experience, Algatech suggests early detection with fluorescence staining to monitor the species. Also, the addition of mono-sugars to aid in the controlling a contamination outbreak. Fig. 4 Prevention by the suggested use of adding mono-sugars. Conclusion Routine detections, especially with large cultures, is essential for long-term growing operations to maintain a healthy environment. If affordable, the FlowCAM offers more systematic detection for early screening against parasites. References:
- Carney LT, Lane TW. Parasites in algae mass culture. Front Microbiol. 2014 Jun 6;5:278. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00278. eCollection 2014.