LCSN: NMSU joins algae-based fuel project

January 18, 2010. Retrieved online: January 19, 2010 from Sun-News report, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES — Work being done in southern New Mexico could lead to a renewable fuel source that can supplement — and maybe even someday replace — gasoline and jet fuel and eliminate consumers’ concerns about diminishing supply.

Recently, New Mexico State University’s study of creating a biofuel from algae received a shot in the arm recently when it announced it would join a consortium of universities and research institutions that has been awarded $44 million to further research.

The purpose is to commercialize the biofuel produced from algae.

“One facet of NMSU’s role will be a focus on sustainability, one of the overriding themes of this project,” said C. Meghan Starbuck, an assistant professor in the NMSU College of Business who is helping lead NMSU’s effort. “There are many challenges to this project, including environmental and economic impacts. We have some of the best people to address these issues.”

The consortium is led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a nonprofit science center located in St. Louis that focuses on human health and agricultural production. The funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed last year by Congress.

NMSU has studied algae — particularly what would be needed to turn algae into an economically viable fuel — for the past few years. Like most plants, algae use sunlight and carbon dioxide from the air to produce oil.

The university reports that its researchers will focus on seven areas: optimization of photo bioreactors and optimization of ponds; demonstration test beds; lipid conversion to fuels; fuels characterization; livestock and mariculture feed as co-products; economic analysis; resource management.

Read the article.

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