Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) and Arizona State University (ASU) on have announced the creation of a world-class center dedicated to researching and bringing to fruition “green” technologies using algae. The announcement was made at the fourth annual gathering of the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) Summit, an international meeting attended by nearly 700 algae research and industry representatives from around the world.
The Center, which will be funded and administered in part by SFAz and managed by ASU, will be located at ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa. Algae Technologies and Innovations (AzCATI) will partner with the rapidly growing algae industry to propel Arizona into the forefront of innovation in biofuels and bio-product research and development.
AzCATI will serve as a statewide and international intellectual and resource hub for algae-based goods, find innovative commercial uses for algae, operate as a learning environment for next generation scientists, facilitate collaboration between higher education, industry and national entities and be a national “test bed” for algae technology.
“The innovations of scientists following the trail of a simple idea often lead to incredible discoveries that have a real impact on the world,” said William C. Harris, president and CEO of SFAz. “The AzCATI has the potential to be so much more than a hub for algae research and development—it will serve as inspiration for diversifying Arizona’s economy and providing opportunity for the scientists of the future.”
The work of ASU College of Technology and Innovation researchers Milton Sommerfeld and Qiang Hu on algae-to-jet fuel made Time Magazine’s list of best inventions in 2008 and was cited by the Wall Street Journal as one of the “Five Technologies That Could Change Everything” in 2009. The two researchers’ progress led to the formation of Heliae Development, LLC, an aviation fuel company working to bring algae-based kerosene and other products to market.
“ASU has emerged as one of the leading national centers on algae research,” said Rick Shangraw, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “ASU has the research expertise and capabilities to influence advances in algal technologies to realize large-scale production of algae-derived fuel in the near future.”
Since 2007, SFAz has funded algal research at ASU that has produced promising and economically viable results, including the use of specially grown algae to make jet fuel. “This food and fuel technology—which will eventually have a significant reduction on our reliance of fossil fuels—can be made cost efficient through the research partnership that has been established through SFAz, ASU and Heliae,” said Frank Mars, coordinating investor in Heliae. “It is critical that we work to bring these real-world solutions to market, where they can be utilized on a large scale.”
“With investments by the state and commercial entities in the development of next generation biofuel technologies, the ideal climate and vast available land, Arizona is poised to become the algae capital of the country,” says Gary Dirks, director of ASU’s LightWorks, a multidisciplinary initiative designed to leverage light-based research, particularly in renewable energy fields.