Algal Biofuels

R&D Activities

Algae image

The Bioenergy Technologies Office manages its algae R&D portfolio as a feedstock pathway. These activities are integrated with the Office's longstanding approach to commercialize lignocellulosic biofuels.

The Bioenergy Technologies Office helps break down critical technical barriers and promote sustainable, affordable, and scalable algae-based biofuels. Activities the Office funds aim to systematically address these barriers along the algae biofuel supply chain to eventually produce economically viable renewable aviation fuel, diesel, and gasoline that can be transported and sold using today's existing fueling infrastructure. 

Advancements in Sustainable Algal Production (ASAP) Funding Opportunity

In February 2012, the Bioenergy Technologies Office announced a funding opportunity to support outdoor phototrophic algae R&D in two areas: (1) nutrient and water use in algal production systems and (2) the development of algal technology testbed facilities. This research will support the Bioenergy Technologies Office's goals to model pathways for significant (>1 billion gallons per year) volumes of cost-competitive algal biofuels by 2022.

The following four projects were selected for award negotiations on August 15, 2012:

Selected ASAP Water and Nutrients Sustainability (Topic Area 1) Awardees

  • California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo, CA): up to $1,306,070
    This project will develop and demonstrate efficient recycling of water and nutrients in algal biofuels production to allow at least 75% of the water and nutrients to be recycled, without significant losses in the stability and productivity of the algae. The project will be carried out in experimental raceway ponds and the City of San Luis Obispo Water Reclamation Facility.
  • University of Toledo (Toledo, OH): up to $2,999,934
    This project will evaluate the effectiveness using the nutrients in waste water, including nutrients from dairy and municipal wastes, to grow algae. It will also evaluate the potential for recycling nutrients from the waste residues from algal biofuel production. Additionally, the project will test novel technologies to return nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich waste products back into cultivation.
  • Sandia National Laboratory (branch located in Livermore, CA): up to $2,145,126
    This project will develop a novel, cost-effective process to liberate phosphorus and nitrogen from residual algal biomass, recycling them back to the algae growth system. 

Selected ASAP RAFT Partnership (Topic Area 2) Awardee

  • Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ): up to $8.3 million for two years
    This project will establish a sustainable network of regional testbeds, called ATP3, that empowers knowledge creation and dissemination within the algal research community, accelerates innovation, and supports growth of the nascent algal fuels industry. ATP3 sites will increase stakeholder access to high-quality cultivation facilities, downstream process equipment and analytical facilities, along with world renowned technical expertise and proactive management structure. In parallel, ATP3's experienced and qualified personnel will design, validate, and execute long-term cultivation trials that will produce standardized data to enable comparison of promising production strains, algal culture systems and processes at meaningful scale, across different regional, seasonal, environmental, and operational conditions.

Algal Biofuels Consortia Initiative

In recent years, the Bioenergy Technologies Office rapidly expanded the scope of its algae biofuel research, development, and demonstration activities. To hasten and maximize the impact of its efforts, the Office developed the Algal Biofuels Consortia Initiative. This unique, multi-institutional, and multi-disciplinary approach accelerates algal biofuels technology development by creating public/private partnerships between universities, national laboratories, and industry. The consortia address many facets of the algae biofuels supply chain and are constructed to facilitate technology transfer between researchers and commercial partners using prenegotiated intellectual property arrangements. In addition, all awards leverage private sector investments of 20% or higher in cost-share contributions. Follow the links below to the consortia's independent Web pages for more information.