BETO announces $15.5 million for algal research

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just announced over $79 million in funding for bioenergy research and development including biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. The FOA topics were picked to advance DOE’s Bioenergy Technology Office’s (BETO) objectives to reduce the price of drop-in biofuels, lower the cost of biopower, and enable high-value products from biomass or waste resources.

The algae topic area for this funding opportunity is AOI 1: Cultivation Intensification Processes for Algae. The goal is to develop technologies for outdoor algae systems that increase the harvest yield, reliability and quality of algae.” Of the $79 million budgeted for the entire research project, $15.5 million is dedicated to algal research, with individual awards in the range of $3-5 million.

The objective of BETO’s Advanced Algal Systems (AAS) program is to accelerate the development of technologies for cultivating photosynthetic algae to make algal biofuels and bioproducts. The AAS strategy supports early-stage, applied R&D projects to overcome barriers identified in the National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap. By overcoming these barriers, the cost of algal biofuels will decrease, and products made from algae will have the potential to contribute to biofuel and bioproduct markets. The AAS Program strategy contributes to BETO’s goals for biofuel modeled MFSP of $3/GGE with a trajectory to $2.50/GGE.

Developers of algal biofuel technologies face significant challenges in translating results between laboratory research systems and larger-scale outdoors (or mass culture) systems. These difficulties limit reliable experimental durations, adequate and representative experimental volumes of material, and results that can be reproduced reliably. By overcoming the challenge in translating results between laboratory and mass cultures, the objective of AOI 1 is to increase the harvest yield, robustness, and quality of algae cultivation for biofuels and bioproducts.

AOI 1 specific areas of interest:

  1. Strain/trait of interest characterization and adaptation of novel and/or existing strains to novel cultivation conditions in an indoor/outdoor/indoor iterative experimental framework (novel strain isolation is not necessarily required to meet the objective).
  2. Novel cultivation systems and innovative strategies to operate cultivation systems that improve data collection and overall culture performance.
  3. Beneficial management and control of cultivation ecology.
  4. Development of tools and sensors for monitoring of cultivation ecology and health paired with cultivation management operations/interventions.
  5. Management of media (e.g., water, nutrients, and carbon) delivery and reuse/recycle to maintain and/or improve cultivation performance.
  6. Improvement of stability and reproducibility of high-performance cultivation outcomes.

Successful applications will accomplish the objective by showing closer correlation between promising laboratory results and “mass culture” campaigns resulting in “high-performance” cultivation outcomes to grow and harvest kilograms of algae and/or equivalent amounts of secreted algae products in a cultivation campaign (see definitions in specific requirements below).

Specifically, successful applications will:

  •  Identify algae strain traits of interest and show that the trait(s) of interest can be reproduced in outdoor, field-scale research;
  •  Undergo multiple indoor/outdoor/indoor cycles to develop, test, and optimize practices and technologies that enable delivery of the expected performance in the largest scale field trials;
  •  Generate data from cultivation campaigns that could be used in techno- economic models to result in lower algal biofuel minimum fuel selling prices and in lifecycle models to assess energy balance and energy return on investment; and
  •  Disseminate results to broader audiences.

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PBR102-F and S PRESS RELEASE 2 2019

Phenometrics, Inc.

Media Contact: Mimi Hall +1 858.774.5427

Phenometrics Introduces Two Next Generation Photo Bioreactors

Production, Research and Teaching Tools for Real Results

Lansing, Michigan, USA April 10, 2019 Phenometrics Inc., the leader in benchtop photobioreactors, introduces two upgraded photo bioreactor systems, the PBR102-FTM, which includes the FSL-200 Full Spectrum Light system, and the PBR102-STM, that includes a Standard spectrum light.

The PBR102-F and PBR102-S are computer controlled compact desktop Photo Bioreactor systems that allows the user to simulate aquatic pond conditions using temperature change and diurnal light cycles. It can be used for dynamic monitoring of algae, as well as configured into a matrix of +25 units, greatly reducing the laboratory workload, improve algae growth, and save valuable time, resources and money.

In addition to research and pond optimization applications, the PBR102 series of photo bioreactors are perfect teaching tools for universities that are training the young scientists of the future. These classes are teaching real world skills for algae scientists who will continue on in the field or algae industry by introducing them to working with the PBR102 photo bioreactors in the lab.

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One of the differences from the PBR101 is the new location for the Optical Density sensors (OD). The OD sensors, previously located at the base of the culture vessel, were prone to corrosion by leakage from the culture vessel, are now located on the sides of the thermal jackets. This not only solves the corrosion problem, but it improves the focus and alignment of the OD sensors themselves, providing better optical density data.

Another new feature of the PBR102-F is the addition of the FSL-200, a superior LED whose light produces a more accurate solar spectrum and provides a higher intensity of up to <5000 μmol photons m-2 s-1, compared to the Standard LED light, which goes to <3000 μmol photons. Scientists and lab managers who are specifically concerned with simulating outdoor growing conditions for scaling up will benefit by using the FLS200 light. Since the FSL-200 more closely matches the spectrum of sunlight, it will improve data results displayed by the Algal CommandTM control software and transfer more closely to downstream ponds.

The PBR102-S has the standard light, similar to the light used in the PBR101, but it also features the side mounted OD sensors. The PBR102-S is priced lower for limited budgets.

The PBR102 series, has an integrated single lead pH probe making it easier to use and clean. The PBR102 also has an upgraded circuit board that supports the FSL200’s higher power requirements.

The Algal Command software controls the photo bioreactor and generates data. Algal Command can used for individual photo bioreactors or when using a matrix of up to 25+ PBRs. Labs and production companies that purchase the standard light PBR102-S, will be able to upgrade to the FSL200 light without modification in the future.

The following Algal Command software features give scientists the power to determine and control:

· 24 hr. Temperature cycles

· 24 hr. Diurnal light cycles

· CO2 input rate

· Set pH sampling schedule

· Set stir motor speed

· Schedule optical Density sampling

· Culture water temperature

In recent years scientists and algae pond managers have used the previous version, the PBR101, for upstream algae selection and for downstream optimization for the following applications and industries:

     APPLICATIONS                                   INDUSTRIES

· Production pond optimization

· Algae strain selection, development and discovery

· Production pond troubleshooting       

· Production pond simulation

· Large photo bioreactors support

       – Nutraceutical Algae production                           

       – CO2 Sequestration research

       – Biofuel Production

        – Waste water treatment research

        – Environmental monitoring research   

Jody Burgess, President and CEO comments, “Scientists and pond managers will appreciate the compact size, versatility and the ease of use of the new PBR102 series. Our PBR101 and ePBR products have the highest number of scientific journal citations for the desktop laboratory photo bioreactor platform, validating our design and functionality.”

Mimi Hall, Phenometrics’ Director of Sales and Marketing said “One of the comments we often receive from our customers is how much they appreciate the quality of the data generated from the Algal Command software during their experiments, and how it helps them meet their objectives and funding requirements. Another positive comment we receive is how happy they are with our customer support services, and for this reason it has them coming back to purchase more PBR systems. Customer service is one of our best features.”

Phenometrics Inc. is headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, USA with a West Coast Engineering and Sales office in Southern California.

For more company and product information please send an inquiry through or call:

+1 858.774.5427

Phenometrics, Inc.

3101 Technology Blvd. Suite B1

Lansing, MI 48910 USA                  

Sales information:


‘Just wanted to share with you that we’re finally working with the PBRs, and quite happy with them! The strains are growing nicely, and the project is going well!’   – Kira, Qatar University

‘I wanted to thank you for showing us how to use the PBRs during the install. We have two up and running and are about to start the third one. Our cultures are growing beautifully!’  – Kaytee, Army Corp of Engineers

Algae and Fungi together at last.

Michigan State University scientists have found a solution to enhance oil production and harvest using what many consider sea sludge.

The new proof of concept, published in Biotechnology for Biofuels, is a biofuel production platform that uses two species of marine algae and soil fungi. It lowers cultivation and harvesting costs and increases productivity, factors that currently hold back biofuels from being widely adopted.

Read the full article here: