GALT partners with LLNL to improve biofuel production

By General Automation Lab Technologies | January 09, 2018

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been awarded a 3 year $1.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to improve the growth and efficiency of biofuel-producing algae through the alteration of their microbiomes. LLNL will partner with San Francisco based General Automation Lab Technologies in the use of a novel high-throughput microbiome research technology. The use of the GALT technology will enable the testing of tens of thousands of unique microbiomes on algal physiology. The project also aims to reduce wasted byproducts of photosynthesis by targeting microbiomes that can more efficiently recycle it back to carbon dioxide for the algae to grow better.

“Study of the microbiome in multiple fields is opening up an entirely new understanding of the role bacteria play in health, the environment, and the products we use in everyday life. We are very excited to bring the unique capabilities of GALT’s technology to this partnership with the Department of Energy and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,” says Peter Christey, CEO of GALT.

“The opportunity to screen tens of thousands of microbiome combinations to find the needle in a haystack using GALT’s novel technology was too good to pass up,” says principal investigator and LLNL staff scientist Xavier Mayali. The team will specifically target bacteria that are able to increase biomass yield under high light and temperature stress conditions, which occur in desert environments such as Arizona, where plenty of sunlight and useable land exists and could one day support viable algal biofuel production facilities.

“This work will allow us to leverage the power of microbes that are traditionally unculturable—an important and necessary first step toward microbiome engineering,” adds co-investigator and LLNL postdoctoral researcher Ty Samo. In addition to enriching the U.S. energy research portfolio, the work will provide fundamental insights on influential yet understudied microbiota.

Funded by the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, this agency supports early-stage research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that make energy more affordable and strengthen the reliability, resilience, and security of the U.S. electric grid. BETO contributes to EERE’s mission by working with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in algal biofuels technologies.