ASU partners to bring algae technology into next generation

February 4, 2014

A newly announced partnership between Arizona State University, Heliae and SCHOTT North America is a big step forward on the path to accelerate algae technology.

The collaboration will bring Heliae’s algae production technology to ASU’s algae testbed facility. Through the partnership, SCHOTT financed a Helix photobioreactor built by Heliae and installed at ASU’s Department of Energy-funded algae testbed facility on the Polytechnic campus. Over the next several years, algae researchers at ASU will leverage the Helix photobioreactor to propel the understanding of algae production technology, including an investigation into the effect of glass tubing innovations on the yields and economics of algae production. The reactor will also deliver the production of high-quality algae cultures, which will support broader ASU algae operations. Technicians work together on the ASU Polytechnic campus Download Full Image

The DOE-sponsored testbed at ASU is part of the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) – a network of algae industry leaders, national labs and research facilities. Led by ASU, ATP3 enables both researchers and third party companies to succeed in their algal endeavors by providing a national network of testbed systems and other services, such as research and education.

Heliae, a technology-driven algae production company, designed, built and installed the Helix inoculum reactor late in 2013. Over the course of the multi-year research plan, ASU will manage Helix operations and research, while Heliae and SCHOTT will support the project in an advisory capacity.

As a key facet of the program, SCHOTT will continually supply novel glass tubing configurations to be placed within the Helix platform for validation and performance analysis. SCHOTT’s new CONTURAX oval glass tubing will likely replace current tubing later in 2014. Its oval shape offers a larger surface area for better light utilization and penetration, which should increase the productivity of the reactor, reducing operating costs. In addition to testing various types of glass configurations, ASU will analyze the growth of various algae strains, production regimes and light conditions, while offering a powerful tool to enhance ongoing operations at ATP3.

“Heliae is constantly innovating for new algae strains, new products and a pipeline of international production sites around the world,” said Dan Simon, Heliae’s president and CEO. “To develop world-class technology, it’s essential to partner and collaborate with the best innovators in the industry, and the interactions between Heliae’s and SCHOTT’s research and development teams over the years have helped both companies develop world-class technology that will truly enable this industry.”

“Schott and Heliae have been working together on technology development for years, as Heliae’s technical leadership in the algae industry is unmatched,” said Nikolaos Katsikis, director of business development at SCHOTT Tubing. “Pairing our history in glass innovation with their demonstrated algae expertise will continue to produce commercial technology for the growing algae industry. This partnership and public research is a great step in bringing efficiency and cost reduction to producers of high-quality algae around the world.”

“By linking academic and commercial interests, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation in algae research and development,” said Gary Dirks, director of ATP3 and the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability. “Pairing the skills of ASU algae researchers and technicians with technology from industrial partners like Heliae and SCHOTT brings ATP3 closer to its mission of propelling algae technology into a commercial realm.”

Engineering professor recognized for impact on environmental conservation

February 4, 2014

Outstanding contributions to environmental conservation have earned ASU Regents’ Professor Bruce Rittmann an award from American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES).

The award, administered by the National Audubon Society and bestowed jointly with the AAES, was established to recognize “an individual who encourages cooperation between engineering professionals and environmentalists to create innovative solutions to environmental problems.” Bruce Rittmann in lab Download Full Image

The citation for the organization’s 2014 Joan Hodges Queneau Palladium Medal recognizes Rittmann for “contributions to cleanup of contaminated water, soils and ecosystems” that are “unprecedented in scope and impact.”

The association acknowledges his accomplishments as “a pioneer in the development of biofilm fundamentals and the holder of five patents related to membrane biofilm reactor technology” for their impact on environmental conservation.

Rittmann is on the faculty of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He is also director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

He is a leading expert in development of microbial systems to capture renewable resources and alleviate environmental pollution. His research combines microbiology, biochemistry, geochemistry and microbial ecology for restoring water purity and generating usable energy from waste products.

“His lifetime body of work has made important contributions to environmental protection and improved the technologies for water and wastewater treatment and hazardous waste management, and provided useful insights into the new and emerging field of biotechnology and bioenergy,” Rao Y. Surampalli wrote in nominating Rittmann for the award. Surampalli is the Academician and Engineer Director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Rittmann’s award will be formally presented in April at the AAES annual reception and awards recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Written by Mayank Prasad

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering