Flinn Scholars News
SFAz grant to fund ASU-BP biofuel project
Concluding its initial round of Strategic Research Group grants, Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) has announced that a group of Arizona State University researchers will receive $2.2 million over two years to study environmentally friendly biofuel production. Petroleum giant BP will collaborate with the ASU team and contribute funds equal to SFAz's grant.
With the support of a $2.2 million grant from Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), a team of biotech researchers from Arizona State University and petroleum giant BP is targeting two of the thorniest problems of the 21st century: dwindling energy supplies and global climate change.
SFAz has announced that its initial round of Strategic Research Group grants will conclude with an award funding production of biofuel in specially designed photobioreactors. ASU faculty from the Biodesign Institute, the School of Life Sciences and the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, in collaboration with renewable-energy researchers from BP, will place transparent tubes filled with photosynthetic bacteria on ASU rooftops in Tempe; fed by sunlight in a closed environment, the cyanobacteria should multiply rapidly and produce a high-energy fat that can be converted to biodiesel.
Compared to alternative energy options like ethanol, little potential energy should be lost as the cyanobacteria are processed into biodiesel. And because the bacteria used in the project require carbon dioxide to photosynthesize, the biofuel they yield should be a virtually carbon-neutral energy source. If this initial project proves successful, a subsequent project might entail placing additional stores of bacteria in proximity to coal-fired power plants, where they would help to negate the power plants' carbon emissions.
"This project illustrates the type of high impact research that is possible when state, industry, and academic leaders converge on an urgent societal problem," said Biodesign director George Poste.
SFAz's Strategic Research Group program requires an industry partner for each funded research project. Under program terms, BP will match SFAz's grant to the ASU team and will stand to share potential profits if the research can be commercialized.
"I think ASU has a chance to really transform BP's understanding of what BP can do," said William Harris, SFAz's president and CEO, in the Arizona Republic.
For more information:
"ASU biofuel growth idea to be tested in Tempe," The Arizona Republic, 11/02/2007