It seems we can get oil from any number of unlikely substances these days, and a joint biofuel research team from Texas A&M and Cornell is trying to do just that. With a $2M grant from the NSF, researchers are studying how to extract the naturally-produced oil from algae. So next time you look at a green swimming pool, consider that a similar muck just might be able to fuel your car. Algae is an eukaryotic organism that is photosynthetic and generally aquatic, and it comes in a wide variety of forms. It can be a very small single cell organism like B. braunii or a very large multi-cellular organism like kelp. It fact algae is one of the newest and most promising subjects of research in the quest for biofuels.
One of the things they got was some very thoughtfully designed labs. Though flexibility of design is important to assure future utility, research team leaders gave significant input into the design of their specific labs to make sure those labs were ideal for the type of research that would be carried out within their walls. Project architect Tim Williams, of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, said in an interview:
“Scientists spend a lot of time in the lab. The UW faculty wanted to look at how we could make that a nicer place to be."
Here are some of the ways they made a nicer science lab building:
- 5-story, 90,300sf structure
- Each of the four above-ground floors is divided into a laboratory half and an office half
- The basement is a 28,000sf low-vibration lab space
- Houses more than 15 faculty, 3 research centers and 4 major instrumentation centers
- Aluminum-plate shielding on the building guards against electromagnetic waves
- Natural ventilation in office spaces provided by windows that open
- Optimized ventilation in the lab spaces, replacing air 6 times per hour rather than 10
- Innovative commons spaces
- Green roof gardens
UW officials are proud of the new building, not just because it is state-of-the-art, but also because it's "state-of-the-science." Molecular engineering is a relatively new field, and the UW Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute (MOLES, the building's primary occupant) sees its mission as exploring a new kind of engineering for the 21st Century: rather than build bridges over rivers (still a noble feat), the new molecular engineer may be building proteins that travel to specific parts of the body. He or she may follow the latest developments in chemistry, biology, physics, nanotechnology and predictive modeling; and his or her research projects will often be interdisciplinary, with colleagues from diverse fields and perhaps different institutions.
Furthermore, if life scientists often pursue basic research to understand the building blocks of life, and engineers build things and occupy themselves with practical mechanics and physical principles, the fusion of the two should have tremendous translational potential. Such is the goal of MOLES and their new collaborative workspace. Per their website:
Research at the Institute for Molecular Engineering & Sciences will be evolvable and dynamic, focusing initially on the themes of CleanTech and BioTech.
Some of the faculty scientists who will be doing research in the new MOLES facility include:
- Patrick Stayton, a professor of bioengineering
- Suzie Pun, a bioengineering associate professor
- David Baker, a biochemistry professor
- Daniel Gamelin, a chemistry professor
- Hugh Hillhouse, a chemical engineering professor
- Christine Luscombe, an associate professor of materials science and engineering
(Dr. David Baker seems to come up in our blog series with regularity. For former blogs citing his work, read the following:)
Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will hold 3 professional tradeshow events focusing on Washington state's bioscience technology and the research partnerships between scientists and the science equipment industry next month on these dates:
- 10/23/2012 -- Washington State University BioResearch Product Faire event, Pullman
- 10/24/2012 -- Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center BRPF event, Seattle
- 10/25/2012 -- University of Washington Front Line event, Seattle
For information on exhibiting at the University of Washington show in particular, and receiving a university research funding report, click here:
Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is a full service event marketing and planning company producing on-campus, life science research tradeshows nationwide for the past 20 years. We plan and promote each event to bring the best products and services to the best research campuses across the country.
Tags: Bioscience research, CEEM, UW, Molecular Engineering, University of Washington, Northwest, WSU, New research facilities, 2012, Biochemistry, chemistry research, Engineering, Front Line event, Energy, Seattle, new construction, construction
Oracle Corporation is a Northern California computer technology giant with its world headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area's Silicon Valley. From its wildly popular OpenWorld tech conference event held annually in San Francisco to its America's Cup sailboat that can be seen tacking across the Bay to and from the Golden Gate Yacht Club on a nice day, Oracle maintains a strong presence in the Bay Area, even beyond its extensive Redwood City campus. But that doesn't mean the company's Chairman of the Board (and former CFO) Jeff Henley lacks the vision to see that one of California's great strengths as far as technology goes is in the University of California System, and that strength comes from leveraging its power and resources across the state. That's why Henley and his wife have just committed $50M to fund a new science building, labs and faculty salaries on the UC Santa Barbara campus, where Henley got his undergraduate education.
Bioresearch students at the University of Colorado, Boulder will be able to do new in depth research into the conversion of biomass to various chemicals and fuels, thanks to a new bioresearch grant from the NSF. The NSF grant was awarded to the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, or C2B2, a joint research renewable energy facility used by CU-Boulder, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
When the information superhighway bypassed the local library and newsstand to bring electronic content directly to our laptops, we were told it was a great day for the environment. Think of all those trees that would no longer need to be cut down for paper! What we didn't think about (right away, at least, in all the giddiness of the moment), was that those massive computer servers had to exist somewhere in real space, and boy were they ever going to use a lot of energy. And all those computers downloading information were going to be a drain on some city's power supply too.
Do you think of chemical engineers as life scientists? How about petroleum engineers? Surely there's nothing biological going on in a tank of gasoline? Not now perhaps, but millions of years ago that black ooze we call crude oil was alive, in the form of plant and animal matter. Hurrying the chemical breakdown of living matter into something we can burn in our cars is the challenge for some of today's brightest chemical engineers who work on turning algae into fuel in an efficient, sustainable green chemistry process.