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Call to Action for a Truly Sustainable Renewable Future
August 8, 2013 – 5:07 pm | No Comment

-Include high octane/high ethanol Regular Grade fuel in EPA Tier 3 regulations.
-Use a dedicated, self-reducing non-renewable carbon user fee to fund renewable energy R&D.
-Start an Apollo-type program to bring New Ideas to sustainable biofuel and …

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A Crash of Algae, Bioterrorism and the Future of Biofuels

Submitted by on April 9, 2013 – 10:26 amNo Comment

by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest)  …You’ve probably seen it, in some way, for years — a local pond seems suddenly crowded with algae — or there’s news of a “red tide” blooming at sea — as quickly as it forms, it seems to disappear.

In the Manhattan of algae test-ponds — the area around Mecca near California’s Salton Sea — an alarming number of ponds crashed, for example, around the time of the devastating San Diego County bushfires a few years back.

But it doesn’t have to be an extraordinary set of circumstances that threaten a pond system.

Because of the way algae is grown and produced in most algal ponds, they are prone to attack by fungi, rotifers, viruses or other predators. Consequently, algal pond collapse is a critical issue that companies must solve to produce algal biofuels cost-effectively. The issue was identified as a key component in the Department of Energy’s National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap.

To address the problem, this week a team at Sandia National Laboratories and the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation is debuting a suite of complementary technologies to help the emerging algae industry detect and quickly recover from algal pond crashes.

…Here’s the problem: you only know you have a problem when the symptoms break out. “If a novel attack occurs and our detection systems fail, we have limited time in which to identify and characterize the organism to be able to offer effective treatment,” (Sandia researcher Todd) Lane said.

Consider this. A relatively recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in Uganda completely failed detection, even by advanced DNA-sequencing tools, because the virus had mutated so much — on its own — that it was unrecognizable. …

To combat this, Sandi developed a toolkit to address the RapTOR (Rapid Threat Organism Recognition) challenge — with a goal of 24 hour turnaround in characterizing new threats. . It was designed to serve as a tool to rapidly characterize a biological organism with no pre-existing knowledge.

It’s this toolkit that has now been applied to the real world challenge of characterizing algae pond crashes, a topic which picked up an $800,000 grant in 2010 from the DOE Biomass Program for a project on “Pond Crash Forensics.”

…Sandia’s Tom Reichardt, a researcher who works in the lab’s remote sensing unit, led development of an online algal reflectance monitor through an internally funded project. The instruments are typically set up alongside the algal pond, continuously monitoring, analyzing the algae’s concentration levels, examining its photosynthesis and performing other diagnostics.

“In real-time, it will tell you if things are going well with the growth of your algae or whether it’s beginning to show signs of trouble,” said Reichardt.  However, he cautioned, while this real-time monitoring will warn pond operators when the ponds have been attacked, it may not be able to identify the attacker.

Finally, … (u)sing hyperspectral imaging, they identified spectroscopic signatures of viral infections arising from changes in algal pigmentation. These signatures potentially could be exploited for early detection and subsequent mitigation of viral infections in algal ponds.    READ MORE


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