Calif. Energy Commission awards funding to two biomass projects

By Chris Hanson | March 28, 2013

The California Energy Commission awarded San Diego State University and Humboldt State University a combined total of $189,993 for their biomass research projects.

San Diego State University won $95,000 to study whether pretreating algal biomass with electroporation will affect its role in anaerobic digesters. John Crockett, program director at San Diego State University Research Foundation, said the study is based on literature that describes weakening cell walls through electroporation. “The goal the project is to determine the feasibility of electroporation, a process where an electric field is used to lyse cells, as a pretreatment for algal biomass to enhance the extraction of materials from the inside of the algae cell wall,” said Temesgen Garoma, principal investigator at SDSU, “The extracted materials will be processed for the production of biofuels.”  

“There are few programs designed to allow faculty researchers to pursue bleeding edge concepts.” Crockett said, “This funding will support the appropriate staff, student and supplies necessary to verify that electroporation is a viable process for extracting valuable molecules from algae and other cells.”

“These small grant projects will help seed innovation and investment in energy technologies throughout California.” said Robert Weisenmiller, commission chair at the CEC, “The Energy Innovations Small Grant program is an innovative model that encourages growth in California’s clean tech industry while attracting further investments. The program has led to $1.8 billion in follow on funding, most of which came from private investors.”

The commission also endowed $94,993 to Humboldt State University to determine the feasibility of using biomass to convert waste heat into chemical energy.

In addition, the CEC awarded 18 additional projects for a grand total of $1.8 million from the commission’s Energy Innovations Small Grant program.