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National Science Foundation
NSF's Role
Phil SavagePhil Savage
Phil Savage serves as professor in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. See how NSF has supported his research. Image credit: From video, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan
 
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Spatula scopping thick, crude oil produced from algae from a glass vialEfficient, Aquatic Biofuel
Chemical engineer Phil Savage envisions a future where instead of being hunter-gatherers for energy, we're cultivators of it. And what he's cultivating is algae. Savage's lab grows the algae, then "pressure cooks" it, resulting in a thick, oily bio-crude. That crude can then be catalyzed to create hydrocarbons that could replace gasoline.
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Algae scum on a pond on left, algae fuel on right.Innovators: Oil of Algae
Algae fuel may be coming to a gas tank near you, if aerospace engineer Bill Roberts has anything to say about it. Roberts's lab at North Carolina State University is genetically modifying a specific strain of algae to produce drop-in replacements for different kinds of transportation fuels.
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Beaker with green algae biofuelMaking Algae Fat
Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography are looking to the oceans for the next generation of biofuels. They're trying to understand what genes lead algae to produce lipids as opposed to carbohydrates--because it's lipids that will ultimately be refined into algae biofuel.
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Large containers cultivating algae for biofuel productionThe Diversity of Algae
At Arizona State University, scientists are screening many species of algae for their "lipid profile." Each species will have a unique assortment of lipids, and different lipids produce different kinds of fuel--everything from kerosene to jet fuel to gasoline.
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Go to Engineers of the New Millennium home page Go to The Energy Revolution Turning Pond Scum Into Fuel