CSU Funded to Make Algae a Better Crop

CSU Powerhouse

Algae growing in ponds at the CSU Powerhouse.

by Emily Wilmsen

A Colorado State University (CSU) team of engineers and biologists has been selected by the Department of Energy for a $3.2 million grant to engineer algal strains and improve cultivation operations. The goal of the project is to increase the rates of biomass production by 20 percent, boosting algae’s potential as a source of biofuels and other products.

The project will be led by Professor Ken Reardon, the Jud and Pat Harper Chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering.

Prof Reardon has spent 20 years analyzing and engineering bacteria and algae for biofuels and other chemicals. “Solutions toward the interconnected challenges of food, energy, and water production are increasingly becoming critical for our planet in the face of climate change,” he said. “Algae could be one of the solutions to those challenges, but we still have a lot to learn about how to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of making fuels and chemicals from algae. We’re confident this project will help the field take a big step forward.”

Joining Dr. Reardon on the DOE project are:

  • David Dandy, Professor and Department Head of Chemical and Biological Engineering, who will use computational tools to simulate pond dynamics treating the cells as chemical reactors that convert inorganic carbon (from CO₂) to biomass;
  • Graham Peers, Associate Professor of Biology, who will use genetic tools to create a new algae strain with higher growth rates; and
  • Jason Quinn, Rockwell-Anderson Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who will analyze the project’s economic and environmental sustainability.

CSU’s partners for this effort include Los Alamos National Laboratory, Arizona State University, Qualitas Health, Quantitative BioSciences Inc., and CSU startup OptiEnz Sensors LLC.

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