Using seaweed for fuel? USM gets $1 million to study possibilities

[USA] The University of Southern Mississippi will conduct research on the use of seaweed to produce energy and improve ocean health with a total of $1 million in federal grants.

USM received $500,000 for research on a seaweed growth system, and another $500,000 to develop a Sargassum seaweed ranching paddock.

Both were approved by the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, according to a release from Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

“The Department of Energy is investing in innovative proposals developed at the University of Southern Mississippi to make marine biomass more available for various uses,” Cochran said. “I commend Southern Miss for successfully promoting research innovation that can help improve economic competitiveness and environmental stewardship.”

ARPA-E announced Tuesday it awarded USM and 16 other projects a total of $22 million in grants through the Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources program, which explores ways to harness marine biomass for fuel and other uses.

The USM Adjustable Depth Seaweed Growth System project will attempt to develop a scalable system with the ability to go underwater to avoid surface hazards.

The Seaweed Paddock Pelagic Sargassum Ranching project revolves around developing semi-autonomous, remotely-operated enclosures of free-floating Sargassum mats. A person onshore would be able to remote-control the system to avoid hazards and position it over nutrient-rich areas, including “dead zones.”

Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is a senior member of the subcommittee that funds the Department of Energy.


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