Biofuels are a promising alternative for gasoline powered transportation that historically comes from petroleum.  The NMC believes biofuels research is important to help safeguard energy security by reducing the world’s reliance on fossil energy sources. Read below for information on current biofuels research at the NMC:


Field Trials of Algal Strains

Optimizing Selection Pressures and Pest Management to Maximize Algal Biomass Yield [OSPREY]

Dr. Alina Corcoran, New Mexico Consortium
Dr. Shawn Starkenburg, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Industrial and Academic Partners: Qualitas Health, Cyanotech Corporation, Colorado State University, New Mexico State University, University of California San Diego

This project responds to a critical industry need to improve annualized productivity, stability, and quality of algal production strains for biofuels and bioproducts. The research team aims to generate process innovations rooted in outdoor cultivation for strain selection, maintenance, cultivation, improvement, and pest management that will result in a 50% improvement in harvest yield and robustness and 20% improvement in conversion yield. This research will leverage existing models and incorporate multiple production pathways, including fuel and co-product production. This approach is unique because it relies on natural, outdoor selection pressures to drive fitness in strains that have already been identified as standards in the industry. Moreover, the work has broad relevance to algal biofuel and bioproduct industries as the proposed pipelines can be applied to a variety of systems regardless of strain, location, or product.

Biomedical Engineering - New Mexico Consortium

Algal Translational Genomics: Deciphering the Breadth and Depth of Carbon Metabolism

Subtitle: Scenedesmus Functional Genome Analysis

Shawn Starkenburg, LANL,
Joseph Msanne, NMC

Industrial-scale production of algal biomass using wastewater that is rich with organic matter would provide a cost-effective means to maximize productivity and improve biofuel yield yet the genetic basis for this physiological activity is larger unknown. The growing availability of genome sequences, including a novel production strain Scenedesmus, enable us to translate this genomic information into functional knowledge of the physiological characteristics of these strains.  Nevertheless, efforts to translate genomic data into fundamental understanding of carbon metabolism, and production of biomass and biomaterials is still lagging, delaying improvements in cultivation practices.  This project will begin this work by focusing on determining the primary routes of organic and inorganic carbon assimilation through a comparative genomic analysis of the Genera Scenedesmus, resulting in an improved and curated in silico reconstruction of carbon utilization.  These in silico models will be curated and validated through phenotyping experiments to determine which carbon sources are metabolized (and under what conditions) promote the most efficient use of carbon to maximize productivity.

Plant Biology - New Mexico Consortium

Success Through Synergy: Increasing Cultivation Yield & Stability with Rationally Designed Consortia

Alina Corcoran, Research Scientist NMC, Guest Scientist LANL, Affiliate Faculty NMSU
Heather Martinez, Lab and Field Technician, NMC/NMSU
Anthony Granite, Lab and Field Technician, NMC/NMSU
Kayley You Mak, Research Technician, NMC

The overall goal of this project is to increase productivity of Nannochloropsis grown in open, outdoor, brackish systems to double the current state-of-technology baseline. To achieve this goal, we are pursuing two pipelines in the lab: the development of rationally-designed intra-generic Nannochloropsis consortia and the development of bacteria-Nannochloropsis consortia. Winning (complex) consortia will be tested in bioreactor experiments and field trials. This work is being in collaboration with Shawn Starkenburg’s group at LANL.