SFCC Researching Biogas Yield with Locally Grown Algae

 Seagriculture EU 2024

SFCC AlgaePrize Finalist Team (2023-2025). Left to right: Alyssa Frame, Claire White, Jessica Abbott, Eva Zafarano, Mitchel Lance Miller, John Michel. Team formed in Fall 2023, became competition finalist in 2024, will continue until April 2025

A student team at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC), in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is working to increase the biogas output of a small-scale anaerobic digester by using algae mixed with waste products such as used cooking oil.

SFCC’s biofuels program provides hands-on instruction in alternative fuels including biogas from anaerobic digestion. The college has a biodigester on campus that converts kitchen waste into clean biogas that can be used for cooking and heating and a liquid biofertilizer. The SFCC student team, “Just AD Algae,” has the potential with this research to benefit off-grid and underserved populations in New Mexico and globally.

“The team researched ways to increase biogas yield using the kind of algae we cultivate here on campus,” said the team’s advisor, Ondine Frauenglass, SFCC Innovation Center director. “They propose to scale up previous experimental setups they have read about to a size that would mimic household or small business use for this kind of renewable energy production. The team will test it out and then create a technical manual to be used off-grid or in emergency situations for cooking and heating. It can either supplement your utilities or replace them depending on how big of an operation you run.”

The SFCC internship team, formed in Fall 2023 will continue their research until April 2025. The team includes Mitchel Lance Miller (Team Captain), Eva Zafarano, John Michel, Alyssa Frame, Jessica Abbott, and Clair White.

Frauenglass said, “I’d like to extend special thanks to the SFCC Controlled Environment Agriculture and Algae Cultivation programs. We are particularly grateful for guidance from Dr. Stephen Gómez, Charlie Shultz and Gabe Smith for their technical support and expertise.”

In addition to the Biofuels program, all the team members are enrolled in SFCC’s Algae Cultivation program, which encourages graduates to pursue advanced degrees in biotech and sustainability, as well as internships with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and NREL. The program offers students the opportunity to earn a certificate or A.A.S. degrees in Controlled Environment Agriculture or Sustainable Technologies.

The SFCC Innovation Center provides opportunities to work and study with biotech companies on campus.

SFCC’s Just AD Algae, is one of 15 finalists in the national AlgaePrize 2023-2025 Competition. The announcement came from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) in a February 1 press release. As one of 15 finalists, selected from 49 entries by a panel of industry experts, the SFCC team will spend about 15 months working on their research project. Each finalist team will receive $10,000 to fund their research project. In the spring of 2025, all the finalists will participate in the AlgaePrize Competition Weekend Event at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

AlgaePrize is a DOE BETO national competition, in partnership with the Algae Foundation and NREL, which encourages students to pursue innovative ideas for the development, design, and invention of technologies within the commercial algal value chain. AlgaePrize 2023–2025 is part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges, one of 82 unique prize competitions designed to incentivize and reenergize American innovation in the energy marketplace.

“We’re excited that SFCC has another AlgaePrize team finalist,” said SFCC President Becky Rowley, Ph.D. “SFCC’s work with the Algae Foundation and NREL has given students a path to valuable internships and employment.”

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Seagriculture USA 2024
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