KAILUA-KONA, HawaiiAquasearch Inc. has been selected to received a major award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Aquasearch technology is the basis of an innovative approach to capture and store gases that cause the greenhouse effect. The DOE selected only 13 projects, judged the best of 60 proposals submitted.
“The selection of these projects signals our strongest commitment to date for carbon sequestration research,” said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. “Should these projects result in real breakthroughs, America and the world will have a new set of options to help meet the challenges of global climate change.”
The projects mark a major transition in the Energy Department’s carbon sequestration research program-a relatively new area of science that envisions ways to capture greenhouse gases and either store them for centuries or recycle them into useful products.
Aquasearch will team with Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) of Andover, Mass. and the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at University of Hawaii who, together, are making in-kind contributions averaging $230,000 for three years. The DOE is expected to commit $1.7 million to the project.
The goal of the project is to apply Aquasearch photobioreactor technology to recover and sequester carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning systems by photosynthesis of microalgae. PSI brings expertise in gas chemistry and mechanical engineering; Dr. Takashi Nakamura, engaged in fluid dynamics and solar energy research at PSI, will administer the project. Professor Steven Masutani of HNEI will focus on modeling large-scale industrial applications from project results. Most of the research and development will be carried out at Aquasearch’s Technology and Product Development Center in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
“This is a win-win relationship,” said Aquasearch CEO Mark Huntley, Ph.D. “Microalgae are by far the most effective biological means to capture carbon dioxide. The DOE goal is to reduce cost. Our goal is to maximize profits. By developing new, high-value products from microalgae, we automatically meet both goals. Better yet, success on this project gives us a way to use a waste product-carbon dioxide-and dramatically cut production costs.”
“We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to develop carbon sequestration technology that can be applied at industrial scale,” said Connie Senior, Ph.D., a lead investigator with PSI. “Utility companies that burn fossil fuel are under increasing pressure to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. They already face a tax liability in some countries. The technology we develop in this project could improve the bottom line for the utility industry.”
Other recipients of DOE awards in this program include the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Research Triangle Research Institute in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
Aquasearch Inc. is a marine biotechnology company that develops and commercializes high value natural products from microalgae, using its proprietary, computer-controlled photobioreactor technology known as the “Aquasearch Growth Module.” Microalgae are a diverse group of 30,000 microscopic plants that produce many unique bioactive compounds. These products have existing and potential commercial applications in such fields as nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, natural colorings and cosmetics.