Making green: algae production at IEE

The project aims to find a hardy, steady strain of algae which can grow quickly and cheaply in brackish water

At New Mexico State University’s Institute for Energy & the Environment, the Algal Biofuel Project is attempting to make algae a viable economic and energy resource. Researchers Jalal Rastegary, and Luz Elena Mimbela are spearheading efforts which could optimize the production of algae, making it possible to collect biofuel on the scale required by industry and at prices equivalent to those of imported oil.

Rastegary, whose primary interests lie in biomass as renewable energy in general, manages the Water & Energy Laboratory at the IEE. Ms. Mimbela, a research engineer with the IEE, is currently the lead in establishing the Algae Test Bed Facility at the A-Mountain Geothermal Aquaculture Facility, located on the NMSU main campus. The Algae Test Bed Facility is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technologies Laboratory (NETL) and the State of New Mexico.

The hope is that, with NM’s natural supply of brackish, unusable water, the growth of fuel-providing algae might provide the southwest with an entirely new and sustainable industry. Although the accessibility of oil and ease of its extraction have delayed biofuel initiatives for 50 years, the possibility of biofuels has garnered a modest amount of attention in recent years. In 2007, a Seattle Times article reported that Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, was looking at futuristic fuel crops such as algae. In 2009, Continental Airlines conducted a demonstration flight using an algal biofuel as jet fuel.

Additional research efforts undertaken by the IEE will examine the cost of producing biofuel and methods to collect oil from the algae. Possible methods include chemical extraction (the use of chemicals to collect oil from the algae) or mechanical extraction (the use of mechanical force to collect oil from the algae).

For more information visitwww.ieenmsu.com, or contact Jalal Rastegary by phone at (575) 646-1510 or email rastegar@nmsu.edu. , or contact Luz Elena Mimbela by phone at (575) 646-4240 or email lmimbela@nmsu.edu. For media and pictures of the event contact Khushroo Ghadiali at khushroo@nmsu.edu or Therese Shakra at mtshakra@nmsu.edu.


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