New Mexico algae project receives funding

By Erin Voegele | July 13, 2010
Posted Aug. 16, 2010

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson recently announced that $200,000 in Recovery Act funding has been awarded to New Mexico State University. A portion of that funding will go to the university's Renewable Energy, Water and Arid Lands Task Force to support an algae biodiesel project.

According to Abbas Ghassemi, NMSU professor of chemical engineering and director of the university's Institute of Energy and Environment, the algae project will include the development of test beds that will be used to evaluate several algae strains. The facility that will house the project is currently undergoing renovation. "It is a greenhouse facility we had on campus," Ghassemi said. "It's under renovation to be able to include the indoor raceways…and the rest of the equipment."

As part of the project, researchers will be evaluating several aspects of algae production, including yields, harvest methods, extraction and performance. The project will also include research into the effects of environmental factors, such as temperature and water quality, on algae growth and performance. "Our intent is to look at the species that are out there that have the promise for growth and development in the environment [where algae biofuels facilities are most likely to develop]," Ghassemi said. "The species that we are interested in are going to be species that are…tolerant to…brackish water."

While the projects findings will likely be most beneficial to those looking to develop algae biofuel projects in New Mexico, Ghassemi said that most areas in the Southwest have similar environmental conditions and water chemistry. "The state of New Mexico would be the primary [region to] benefit from the [project], but that doesn't mean that other places that have similar water chemistries and similar environments won't be able to benefit from it." Ghassemi also notes that the funding for this project was acquired through NMSU's International Relations Institute, which works to transfer research findings around the globe.
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