Bodega Algae, Bigelow Lab receive NSF grant

By | January 19, 2010

Posted January 26, 2010

Massachusetts-based renewable energy company Bodega Algae LLC, and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in West Boothbay Harbor, Maine, have received a six-month, $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation to develop and test a prototype for growing high concentrations of algae, for use as biofuel. The grant is titled Light Delivery Enhancement of Photobioreactors and will be used to develop advanced photobioreactors.

A photobioreactor cultivates algae efficiently by delivering optimal supplies of nutrients and light for growth.

Sam Hill, Bodega Algae's president, said, "The first phase of our SBIR project addresses the technical challenges involved in cultivating large amounts of algae needed for producing and using algal biofuel at an industrial scale."

Willie Wilson, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory, is the interim director of the laboratory's Provasoli-Guillard Center for the Culture of Marine Phytoplankton, the nation's official collection of marine algae, and the largest micro algae repository on the east coast. Wilson will test methods of light delivery developed at Bodega Algae for their effect on cell growth rates for a range of algal strains.

"A key goal of the project is to identify the best methods and design for capturing and sending light to algae in larger volumes under varying conditions in order to grow algae," Wilson said. "This grant gives us a chance to test methods to grow high volumes of algae quickly and efficiently. This would open one of the major bottlenecks in the production of biofuel."

The central focus of Bodega Algae is the development of next-generation commercial algae photobioreactors for high-volume commercial production of algae biomass. Bodega was recently identified by Earth2Tech, a website tracking innovations in green technology, as one of the top 15 biofuel companies in the country to watch.

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is a center for global ocean research. An independent, nonprofit research institution, the Laboratory is supported by federal research grants and private funds. The Laboratory's research ranges from microbial oceanography-examining biological productivity in the world's oceans at the molecular level-to the large-scale biogeochemical processes that drive interactions between ocean ecosystems and global environmental conditions.

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