Colorado State wins NSF grant to study bacteria-derived biofuels

By Chris Hanson | July 26, 2013

The National Science Foundation has presented Colorado State University researchers with $2 million to investigate bacteria-derived biofuels.

“We’ve been working on parts of this for several years,” said Kenneth Reardon, site director for Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels and principal investigator. “This program from the National Science Foundation was useful for not only bringing those parts together, but also inspiring us to create a unifying theme for it all.”

Researchers from CSU will modify cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, to convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons through photosynthesis. Additionally, the project will explore how various light exposures affect bacteria growth rate and yield, draft computer models that predict the light exposure in specific cultivation systems, develop efficient bacteria harvesting methods and create novel life-cycle analysis approaches to accurately model the productivity of large-scale reactors.

Reardon said certain species of cyanobacteria have potential advantages compared to certain algal types. He explained many species of cyanobacteria grow faster than algal species and are easier to genetically modify in order to produce desired chemicals. “They are far easier to manipulate,” said Reardon. “For us, that’s the largest advantage.”

The research project officially begins Aug. 1 under its unified role.