Utah State Today - University News

Utah State University Logo
20Aug2014

Enchanted Modernities - Mysticism, Landscape & the American West

Caine College of the Arts and the Leverhulme Trust…

20Aug2014

Produce Stand - USU Student Organic Farm

Join us every Wednesday for fresh organic produce,…

22Aug2014

USU Connections Bowling Party

USU Connections group will be holding a Bowling event at…

22Aug2014

Soccer @ Arkansas

23Aug2014

Nature Walk -- Swaner EcoCenter

Saturday Nature Walk -- 10-11:30 a.m. Join us on your…

More events

CONNECT WITH US

Blogger Facebook Twitter You Tube RSS

Algae Biofuel Can Help Meet World Energy Demand say USU Researchers


Thursday, May. 29, 2014


USU researchers Jasson Quinn, Jeff Moody, Chris McGinty
From left, USU researchers Jason Quinn, Jeff Moody and Chris McGinty published findings from a global assessment of microalgae productivity potential in a May 2014 online Early Edition of the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.'
Colorado plant growing algae
Algae is grown at a Colorado plant. USU researchers estimate untillable land in Brazil, Canada, China and the U.S. could produce enough algal biofuel to supplement more than 30 percent of those nations' fuel consumption. Courtesy Solix BioSystems.

Microalgae-based biofuel not only has the potential to quench a sizable chunk of the world’s energy demands, say Utah State University researchers, it’s a potential game-changer.

 

“That’s because microalgae produces much higher yields of fuel-producing biomass than other sources of alternative fuels and it doesn’t compete with food crops,” says Jeff Moody, who completed a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from USU in May 2014.

 

With USU faculty mentors Chris McGinty and Jason Quinn, Moody published findings from an unprecedented worldwide microalgae productivity assessment in the May 26, 2014, online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team’s research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

 

Despite its promise as a biofuel source, the USU investigators questioned whether “pond scum” could be a silver bullet-solution to challenges posed by fossil fuel dependence.

 

“Our aim wasn’t to debunk existing literature, but to produce a more exhaustive, accurate and realistic assessment of the current global yield of microalgae biomass,” Moody says.

 

With advisor Quinn, assistant professor in USU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Moody began building simulations and generating data. As the project progressed, the engineers realized they needed expertise outside their discipline. They recruited McGinty, associate director of USU’s Remote Sensing/Geographic Information Systems Laboratory in the Department of Wildland Resources, for help in developing the sophisticated spatial interpolations and resource modeling needed to develop their large-scale model.

 

“Visual representations of physical and biophysical processes are very powerful tools,” McGinty says. “Adding the geospatial interpolation component brought the data into focus.”

 

Using hourly meteorological data from 4,388 global locations, the team determined the current global productivity potential of microalgae.

 

“Our results were much more conservative than those found in the current literature,” Quinn says. “Even so, the numbers are impressive.”

 

Algae, he says, yields about 2,500 gallons of biofuel per acre per year in promising locations. In contrast, soybeans yield approximately 63 gallons; corn about 435 gallons.

 

“In addition, soybeans and corn require arable land that detracts from food production,” Quinn says. “Microalgae can be produced in non-arable areas unsuitable for agriculture.”

 

The USU researchers estimate untillable land in Brazil, Canada, China and the United States could be used to produce enough algal biofuel to supplement more than 30 percent of those countries’ fuel consumption.

 

“That’s an impressive percentage from renewable energy,” says Moody, who soon begins a new position as systems engineer for New Mexico’s Sandia National Labs. “Our findings will help to justify the investment in technology development and infrastructure to make algal biofuel a viable fuel source.”

 

Related links:

 

Contacts: Jason Quinn, 970-581-7992, jason.quinn@usu.edu; Jeff Moody, 970-232-6890, moodyj1986@gmail.com; Chris McGinty, 435-770-0642, mcginty.chris@gmail.com

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517, maryann.muffoletto@usu.edu



     email icon  Email story       printer icon  Printer friendly
 






Send your comment or question:

We welcome your response. Your comment or question will be forwarded to the appropriate person. Please be sure to provide a valid email address so we can contact you, if needed. Your response will NOT be published online. Thank you.

NOTE: Do Not Alter These Fields, they are used to limit spam: