ATP3 selects Support Program participants

The Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) offers a support program that encourages and enables businesses, entrepreneurs and academic researchers to pursue new approaches to solving technical issues associated with the commercialization of algae based biofuels, co-products and processes through broader access to the ATP3 facilities and expertise.

After a short application and rigorous review process, ATP3 may provide access to labs and technical expertise, testbed facilities including cultivation and downstream equipment, materials and supplies, and travel stipends to the testbed sites.

The first three projects chosen to pilot the ATP3 support program for this year include:

Jennifer J. Stewart, a scientist and NSF SEES Fellow at the University of Delaware, was selected for her proposal on establishing baseline measurements for the productivity and biochemical composition of Heterosigma akashiwo CCMP2393 under outdoor, open pond cultivation conditions. This strain is important because it has shown exceptional remediation of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide from industrial emissions. Through a partnership with the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), Stewart, along with master’s graduate student Anna Schutschkow, will come to AzCATI to work at the testbed and hopes to validate laboratory-scale data that has already been generated for growth and biochemical composition of this strain and support the hypothesis that this strain is suitable for commercial scale biomass production for biofuels.

“The ATP3 program is a valuable resource for academic scientists conducting research in the field of algal biofuels and bioproducts,” Stewart said. “Access to ATP3’s testbeds and analytical facilities is essential for transitioning our laboratory scale research into commercially viable technologies. Additionally, their programmatic support will enhance our technology development and data dissemination beyond what is capable at our home institution.”

Nigel Quinn, a research leader from the Berkeley National Laboratory, was selected for his proposal on developing a fundamental understanding of carbon assimilation dynamics in algal cultures and the relative ability of various carbon sources to meet an algal biofuel facility’s carbon requirements. Sticking close to the Department of Energy goals, reducing the cost of algae production through the optimization of this key unit operation will be a main focus on the project.

Through this program, Quinn hopes to develop local collaborations with algae biofuel industry partners and continue to enhance new research collaboration with carbon dioxide generators.

Ruth Spierling is a research engineer at Cal Poly. Cal Poly will perform additional testbed research that will assess the potential for nutrient recycling following anaerobic digestion of disrupted, lipid-extracted Nannochloropsis sp. biomass grown on a saline medium during the ATP3 cultivation trials. Anaerobic digestion is a relatively inexpensive method for transforming waste products of algae biofuel production into heat, electricity and easily-assimilated soluble nutrients. It is the goal of Cal Poly to help algae biofuel facilities meet economic and sustainability goals.

“The ATP3 testbed equipment generates a lot of opportunities for discovery beyond the main research tasks,” Spierling said.

“This announcement of the new projects is welcome news and an excellent example of the research partnerships supported by the ATP3 program. The results will assist the Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) to drive down the costs of biofuels,” Roxanne Dempsey, DOE technology manager, said.

“It is exciting to be able to extend the reach of ATP3 and leverage BETO’s investment by directly supporting stakeholder access to our network of test bed facilities. Supporting academic investigators and entrepreneurs through ATP3’s Support Program, bringing innovative ideas, technologies and most importantly the researchers themselves out of the lab and into our facilities and who might otherwise not have the resources to see their ideas and solutions advance, is a core mission for our partnership,” Dr. John McGowen, Director of Operations and Program Management for ATP3, said.

ATP3 would like to congratulate the chosen applicants and wish them luck on each of their individual projects.

If you are interested in applying for the ATP3 Support Program, complete and submit the ATP3 Support Program Expression of Interest Form located on the ATP3 website (atp3.test/contact-us/) to info@atp3.test.

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Confocal fluorescence image of Heterosigma akashiwo nucleus (green) and chloroplasts (blue).
(Photo by Elif Demir-Hilton and Kirk Czymmek)
Cell ultrastructure showing locations of nucleus (N), chloroplasts (Ch), and mitochondria (M).
(Photo by Elif Demir-Hilton and Kirk Czymmek)
fluorescence images of Heterosigma akashiwo cells stained with the lipophilic fluorescent stain, BODIPY 505/515, to show the accumulation of multiple lipid bodies.
(Photo by J. Stewart)