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'Green crude' seen as a top 50 invention for 2008

November 07, 2008

An Arizona State University algae-to-fuel project led by professors Qiang Hu and Milton Sommerfeld is a top 20 invention for 2008, according to Time, Inc. On Oct. 27, it released its top 50 inventions for 2008 and the algae-to-fuel project came in at No. 11.

“We did not have a clue that this might occur,” said Hu, researcher and assistant professor in applied biological sciences in the School of Applied Arts and Sciences. “We received emails from people congratulating us about the announcement, which we were unaware of until we learned what they were talking about. They wanted to contact us about collaborative possibilities.”

The scientists expect that the emails and phone calls will only increase with this additional visibility and see this recognition as providing credibility to their research in their effort to make algae-based biofuels a reality.

“We never thought or dreamed that work in this area would engender this level of visibility, but we are excited and motivated by the interest in the use of alternative fuels to meet some of the world's energy needs,” said Sommerfeld.

Some of the inventions taking top billing include 23andMe, a gene testing service; electric automobiles like the Tesla Roadster and Chevy Volt; the Global Seed Vault; the large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator; NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, an unmanned moonship; and the Orbital Internet, which would allow you to send and receive e-mails in space.

The researchers have been studying algae for more than 25 years. In addition to algal oil research, they have focused the use of algae for air and water remediation, antioxidants for food and supplements, and animal feed.

During the last three years, Sommerfeld and Hu have received nearly $8 million in grants and contracts to support their research.

The ASU team developed a technology for algae-based biodiesel that was licensed in 2006 to PetroAlgae, LLC, a spin off company from XLTechGroup,Inc. in Melbourne, Florida that was formed to commercialize growing and harvesting of oil from algae.

In 2007 they partnered with UOP, LLC, a Honeywell company, on a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant to develop the algal feedstock production system to produce Jet Propellant (JP-8), which is used by the U.S. and NATO militaries.

More recently the ASU scientists entered into a research and commercialization collaboration with Heliae Development, LLC and Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) to develop an aviation fuel derived from algae.

To see Time’s top 50 inventions for 2008, visit,28804,1852747_1854493_1854113,00.html.

Chris Lambrakis,
(480) 727-1173
Public Affairs at ASU Polytechnic campus