Future Bright as Arizona's Sun for Making Algae Economic Driver

In the future, Arizona may have to add an A to the five C's - copper, cotton, climate, citrus and cattle--that have been the state's economic drivers.

Algae thrives on sunshine, CO‚, and brackish water. Three things that Arizona has in abundance, making the state the perfect place for growing algae for food, feed and ultimately fuel.

This makes algae a potential boon for researchers at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, both operating under the Sustainable Algae Biofuels Consortium.

The consortium, fueled by a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, is testing the viability of algae as a replacement for petroleum-based fuels. Additionally, Gov. Jan Brewer a year ago issued $4 million in grants and matching funds to the industry.

Here, beneath the blazing sun at the University of Arizona's Campus Agriculture Center, 4101 N. Campbell Ave., Randy Ryan, assistant director of the Agriculture Experiment Station, and Peter Waller, associate professor with agricultural-biosystems engineering, are developing test-bed systems to solve two problems: temperature management and growth. Using both fresh and salt-water algae, the researchers hope to develop a system that allows for year-round growing in Arizona.

"(Temperature management) is important because in the desert the temperature fluctuates wildly from day to night and from winter to summer," said Waller.

Moving beyond the raceway system, Ryan and Waller have solved the temperature problem by changing the surface area, combining two meter canals with shallower basins. This allows them to manage to temperature by a few degrees despite sweltering summer conditions or winter freezes.

By managing the algae species, they can also make sure to keep the algae in production throughout the day, making their system more efficient and thus minimizing costs. Ultimately, they hope to develop algal biofuels for the equivalent of $60 per barrel.

Read more from the November 7 edition of Inside Tucson Business at the link below.

Also see http://azstarnet.com/business/local/ua-algae-research-fuels-oil-possibility/article_195298fc-8297-55e1-aef1-69fcc5a5f1ed.html


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Randy Ryan
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Released date: 
Dec 2 2011