Japanese's Algae Biomass Bioenergy Development Research Center Established

[Japan] A new research organization, the Algae Biomass Energy System Development Research Center, was established at the University of Tsukuba on July 1. The center is headed by Professor Makoto Watanabe of the University of Tsukuba.

On the same day, the university introduced a new system, the System for Development Research Centers (*1) to run research organizations. The system allows the university to receive outside funding to run research organizations. The Algae Biomass Energy System Development Research Center was established as the first research center utilizing this system.

The Algae Biomass Energy System Development Research Center
The Algae Biomass Energy System Development Research Center

As one of the largest algae biomass research centers in Japan, the center consists of some fifty members of the university faculty. Its duties include fundamental research and empirical studies on algae biomass and applications of the research for industry. The final objective of the center is to put algae-derived oil into practical use and to create a new algae industry.

Algae biomass is a carbon-neutral resource with high oil productivity. In addition, it demonstrates practical potential as an alternative to fossil fuels that does not compete with food resources. For this reason, algae biomass is expected to be a resource of next-generation energy. In recent years, possible applications of algae biomass have attracted a lot of attention in various industries including agriculture, environment, chemical products, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceutical products. The efforts, though, have only just begun.

3.5 t raceways
3.5 t raceways

To develop its potential and create a new algae industry, the center needs to take an interdisciplinary approach in addition to the traditional research style focusing on biology. Moreover, there are other tasks that the center needs to achieve: The invitation of experts in a variety of areas from home and abroad, the expansion of cooperation with companies, the development of cooperative relationships with international top-level researchers to conduct research on algae-based bioenergy systems, and the establishment of a foundation for fostering human resources. The Algae Biomass Energy System Development Research Center was established to accomplish these tasks. The center is composed of six research categories including Bio-Resources, Metabolic and Genetic Engineering, Production Systems Engineering, Green Chemistry, Energy Systems, and Wellness Medicine. A research promotion system has been prepared at the center to conduct fundamental research, empirical studies, and industrial applications of algae research in a consistent manner.

For industrial applications of algae research, the center intends to promote the following activities: The development of an algae-based biofuel production system, the development of an algae-based wastewater treatment system, the production of livestock feed from algae, and the application of algae-derived oil for cosmetics and medical products. Furthermore, the center intends to invite top-level researchers from abroad and to enhance development of human resources by conferring degrees on students in developing countries.

The System for Development Research Centers

This system was established to promote innovative research at the University of Tsukuba. It promotes industry-university-government collaborative research that has high demands in society. The system allows the university to receive outside funding to run a research organization. The validity period of the system is up to five years. Though the limit is extendable, the system will become void when the research organization loses capacity to manage its financial affairs with outside funding. The system was established as of July 1 to achieve the university’s mission of social contribution. The University of Tsukuba International Innovation Interface Organization has supervision over the system.

 

Photo: 50 L tube reactors

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