Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Baking soda dramatically boosts oil production in algae

Date:
November 17, 2010
Source:
Montana State University
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that baking soda can dramatically increase algae's production of the key oil precursors for biodiesel.

MSU researchers Keith Cooksey, Brent Peyton and Rob Gardner (from left) discovered that baking soda, added at a specific time in the growth cycle of algae, dramatically increases the production of oil.
Credit: MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

Montana State University researchers have discovered that baking soda can dramatically increase algae's production of the key oil precursors for biodiesel.

The same ingredient that causes cookies to rise in the oven, the same agent that calms upset stomachs and removes odors from refrigerators is the elusive chemical trigger that scientists have sought since the early 1990s, said Rob Gardner, an MSU graduate student in chemical and biological engineering and a native of Afton, Wyo.

When added at a particular time in the growing cycle, baking soda more than doubled the amount of oil produced in half the time in three different types of algae.

"It took a lot of work. I was pretty thrilled when it all came together," Gardner said. "I'm still kind of in shock about it."

Gardner is part of the team that developed the algal biofuel technology that MSU is now offering for licensing. Other members are longtime algae experts -- Keith Cooksey, research professor emeritus in microbiology, and Brent Peyton, professor in chemical and biological engineering and associate director of MSU's Thermal Biology Institute. Representing the College of Engineering and College of Letters and Science, all three belong to MSU's Algal Biofuels Group, "one of the best cooperative research groups on campus," according to Cooksey.

The Algal Biofuels Group is part of MSU's MSU's Energy Research Institute, an umbrella for roughly 35 faculty working in a variety of disciplines. About $15 million in sponsored energy research is conducted at MSU annually.

"We are looking at everything from biofuels, to fuel cells, to wind, to carbon sequestration," said Lee Spangler, Energy Research Institute director. "This work by the algal group is an exciting example of how we take university research and make it available to the private sector through licensing."

The algal group also belong to the Algal Biomass Organization, the world's largest group devoted to algal biofuel. Peyton presented MSU's discovery to that group in late September. It was one of four presentations on biofuel from MSU.

The search for a chemical trigger to boost oil production in algae was a long, sometimes torturous, journey, according to the three MSU scientists. Not only did they have to find a chemical that would work, but they had to figure out the best time to add it to the algae. Cooksey taught Gardner how to grow the algae they used in their experiments. Gardner grew the algae in beakers and tubes in three labs across campus. He then conducted experiments and shared his progress with Cooksey and Peyton. Gardner worked for about 1 1/2 years before the trio confirmed that baking soda was the chemical trigger they'd been seeking. They made their initial discovery in two kinds of brown algae and one type of green.

"It was a lot of trial and error and failure," Gardner said. "We finally came across the right combination."

Cooksey said baking soda may work because it gives algae extra carbon dioxide necessary for its metabolism at a key point in its life cycle. If the baking soda is added too early or too late, the algae don't respond. But when added at just the right time in the growth cycle, algae produce two to three times the oil in half the time of conventional growth models. The oil, or lipid, is composed of triacylglycerides, the key precursors to biodiesel and biojet fuel.

"For industry, if you double your output in half the time, that's a big deal," Cooksey said.

Reducing the amount of time needed to produce oil is also good because algal-producing ponds are prone to contamination, he added. If growers can produce oil faster, they can reduce the opportunity for contamination to ruin the product.

Peyton said the three types of algae used in the MSU study were not closely related, so the MSU discovery should have broad application.

"We are working on demonstrating this in other varieties," he said.

Peyton and Cooksey said the baking soda discovery demonstrated the value of interdisciplinary work on campus.

"The ties between the chemical and biological engineering and microbiology departments have never been stronger," Peyton said. "We work so closely with so many of the microbiologists that it's a very good collaboration, very fruitful."

He added that algal biofuel is the "fastest moving area I have ever been involved with. It's hard to keep up with all the new developments."

Cooksey, 75, researched algal biofuel 20 years ago and published more than 40 papers in the general area, but said the government eventually lost interest and withdrew its funding. The trend has reversed itself, however, and the field is exploding. Cooksey doesn't think the interest will disappear this time because some of the biggest energy users in the world -- members of the defense and commercial airline industries -- have thrown their support behind pursuing the idea.

Cooksey is now in demand for his expertise, but he is still miffed about the lost years.

"It's great, but it's frustrating," Cooksey said. "Why the hell didn't we do this 20 years ago because we would be where we'd like to be by now."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Montana State University. The original article was written by Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Montana State University. "Baking soda dramatically boosts oil production in algae." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115091902.htm>.
Montana State University. (2010, November 17). Baking soda dramatically boosts oil production in algae. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115091902.htm
Montana State University. "Baking soda dramatically boosts oil production in algae." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115091902.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins