Algae testbed experiment yields data useful for future projects

December 04, 2018

A unique experiment that explored how well algae grows in specific regions of the United States yielded data that could prove useful as the industry moves forward, according to research from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Arizona State University (ASU).

Researchers established identical raceway-style ponds in five outdoor locations to cultivate and harvest three strains of algae during the four seasons. The project originated from a 2012 DOE award to ASU to lead the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership, a collaborative effort that includes NREL and focuses on providing year-over-year data on algal cultivation.

"This data is extremely valuable to anyone interested in growing algae outdoors in different regions of the United States," said Eric Knoshaug, a senior scientist in NREL's National Bioenergy Center and co-author of the newly published paper, "Unified Field Studies of the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership as the Benchmark for Algae Agronomics."

Published in Scientific Data, the paper's other co-authors are Ed Wolfrum and Lieve Laurens of NREL; Valerie Harmon of Harmon Consulting Inc.; and Thomas A. Dempster and John McGowen from the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation at ASU.

The testbed sites were in the Southwest desert, in Mesa, Arizona; the California coast, in San Luis Obispo; the inland Southeast, in Atlanta, Georgia; the Pacific tropics, in Kona, Hawaii; and the coastal Southeast, in Vero Beach, Florida. Ponds holding about 1,000 liters of water were installed near the end of 2013. Harvesting operations started in mid-2014 and continued through the middle of the next year. The data--everything from temperature and pH of the water to the amount of algae harvested and ambient weather conditions--were collected continuously.

Wolfrum and Knoshaug curated the resulting data. "Other researchers can take a look at this and use the data to quantify the effects of humidity, the effects of temperature, and the effects of light intensity because we kept all the variables we could constant," said Wolfrum, a principal researcher in NREL's Biosciences Center. "The only thing left is the geography and the environment." The paper goes into detail about how researchers collected the data and determined the quality of the information.

The 19-month experiment ended with Florida proving to be the best of the sites for algae production, with its humidity and year-round temperatures that don't dramatically swing between hot and cold. But not everyone interested in growing algae can do it in Florida, so the data enables others to make predictions on possible sites and to develop crop protection strategies.
-end-
DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office sponsored the research through the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Related Algae Articles from Brightsurf:

Sprat, mollusks and algae: What a diet of the future might look like
Rethinking what we eat is essential if we hope to nourish ourselves sustainably and mind the climate.

Ocean algae get 'coup de grace' from viruses
Scientists have long believed that ocean viruses always quickly kill algae, but Rutgers-led research shows they live in harmony with algae and viruses provide a 'coup de grace' only when blooms of algae are already stressed and dying.

New science behind algae-based flip-flops
Sustainable flip-flops: A team of UC San Diego researchers has formulated polyurethane foams made from algae oil to meet commercial specifications for midsole shoes and the foot-bed of flip-flops.

Battling harmful algae blooms
In two separate studies, the University of Delaware's Kathryn Coyne is looking at why one species of algae has some strains that can cause fish kills and others that are non-toxic, while examining an algicidal bacterium found in Delaware's Inland Bays that could provide an environmentally-friendly approach to combatting algae blooms.

Algae as living biocatalysts for a green industry
Many substances that we use every day only work in the right 3D structure.

Algae in the oceans often steal genes from bacteria
Algae in the oceans often steal genes from bacteria to gain beneficial attributes, such as the ability to tolerate stressful environments or break down carbohydrates for food, according to a Rutgers co-authored study.

Algae team rosters could help ID 'super corals'
U.S. and Australian researchers have found a potential tool for identifying stress-tolerant ''super corals.'' In experiments that simulated climate change stress, researchers found corals that best survived had symbiotic algae communities with similar features.

Algae shown to improve gastrointestinal health
A green, single-celled organism called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has served as a model species for topics spanning algae-based biofuels to plant evolution.

How do corals make the most of their symbiotic algae?
Corals depend on their symbiotic relationships with the algae that they host.

Algae as a resource: Chemical tricks from the sea
The chemical process by which bacteria break down algae into an energy source for the marine food chain, has been unknown - until now.

Read More: Algae News and Algae Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.