National Nuclear Security Administration

Sandia algae raceway paves path from lab to real-world applications

February 9, 2016

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Sandia California held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Algae Raceway Testing Facility last week. The new facility will help scientists advance laboratory research to real-world applications.

In a twist of geometry, an oval can make a line. The new algae raceway testing facility at Sandia National Laboratories in California may be oval in shape, but it paves a direct path between laboratory research and solving the demand for clean energy.

As the nation and California adopt policies to promote clean transportation fuels, that path could help bring the promise of algal biofuels closer to reality. As one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, algae are an ideal source of biomass, but researchers have not yet found a cost-competitive way to use algae for fuels.

“This facility helps bridge the gap from the lab to the real world by giving us an environmentally controlled raceway that we can monitor to test and fine tune discoveries,” said Ben Wu, Sandia’s Biomass Science and Conversion Technology manager. “The success of moving technologies from a research lab to large outdoor facilities is tenuous. The scale-up from flask to a 150,000-liter outdoor raceway pond is just too big.”

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