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Ancient diatoms could make biofuels, electronics and health food – at the same time

September 17, 2012 02:59 PM EST By: Jennifer Rocha

Diatoms could finally make biofuel production from algae truly cost-effective; Oregon State University receives $2 Million US grant from the NSF to fund this research.

Story content courtesy of Oregon State University, US

Someday, the engineers at Oregon State believe that microscopic algae created by the diatoms will be able to take some of the cheapest, most abundant materials on Earth - like silicon and nitrates - and add nothing much more than sunshine, almost any type of water, and carbon dioxide to produce a steady stream of affordable products. The NSF is funding this research on photosynthetic biorefinery at OSU over the next four years.

“This NSF program is intended to support long-range concepts for a sustainable future, but in fact we’re demonstrating much of the science behind these technologies right now,” said Greg Rorrer, an OSU professor and head of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. Rorrer has studied diatoms for more than a decade.

“We have shown how diatoms can be used to produce semiconductor materials, chitin fibers for biomedical applications, or the lipids needed to make biofuels,” he said. “We believe that we can produce all of these products in one facility at the same time and move easily from one product to the other.”

 

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