University Of Tulsa Students Hoping To Turn Algae Into Alternative Fuel

Monday, August 16th 2010, 5:19 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The accident in the Gulf of Mexico is encouraging work on alternative fuels.

The University of Tulsa is expanding research with a new government grant.

In a small laboratory on the University of Tulsa campus, beakers of algae grow under the watch of graduate students.

The short term goal is identifying, or creating, a new form of algae best suited for conversion into crude oil.

8/16/2010 Related Story: TU Research Suggests Algae May Be a Great Fuel Source

"Basically what we're doing is genetically modifying algae, introducing new types of DNA, into the algae, and see what we can get out of the algae in the end," said Sam Noor, Ph.D. Student Researcher.

The long term goal is much broader: replacing natural crude oil with oil based on modified algae.

"They will actually produce a very significant fraction of the oil this country needs to operate every day, perhaps as much as half of what they need," said Professor Jeffrey Price, TU Chemical Engineering.

Professor Price says the process is proven, but not as efficient as it needs to be to replace ethanol produced from corn.

"What we're able to do with that is make so much more fuel with the same number of acres of planted farmland," he said.

Representative John Sullivan toured the lab Monday. TU won a $750,000 government research grant to continue this work.

"What we want to do is look at all fuels, algae being one of them, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Representative Sullivan said. "Americans want to be energy independent and we can do that if we look at other technologies like this."

If their research is successful, they will come up with a new variety of algae that will grow almost anywhere and produce the most alternative fuel per acre.