Research Communications

Third Frontier awards $3 million for algae research at Ohio University 

Grant will help stimulate alternative energy industry in Ohio

ATHENS, Ohio (May 28, 2010) — Ohio University has received nearly $3 million from the state’s Third Frontier Wright Projects Program to enhance its facilities for algae research. The project supports a growing industry in Ohio that aims to harness the plant for alternative energy innovations and air pollution mitigation.

The university will serve as a testing ground for a statewide coalition of public institutions and private companies engaged in developing algae technologies, including Cleveland-based Algae Producers of America, which was instrumental in helping Ohio University pursue the Third Frontier grant, said project leader David Bayless, Loehr Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio University.

“This is the long-term effect of the high gas prices we saw a few years ago, which prompted more financial investment in algae as an alternative to oil,” Bayless said. “There’s enough critical mass of companies working on algae in Ohio now that the state wanted to invest in it.”
 David Bayless
David Bayless and colleagues explore several ways to use algae for alternative energy and air pollution mitigation.

Ohio University has gained a reputation in the past decade for its expertise in algae research and technology commercialization. Bayless and colleagues Ben Stuart, Greg Kremer and Guy Riefler in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, as well as Morgan Vis, a nationally known algae expert in the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology, have developed innovations such as algae bioreactors that use the plant to eat the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants. The researchers also explore how algae can be used as biomass for home and automotive fuel.

Ohio’s strong manufacturing and agricultural industries, paired with its access to fresh water, make it an ideal setting for the algae industry, Bayless said. Companies such as Algae Producers of America explore using the plant for fuel, bioplastics, animal feed and pharmaceuticals.

Univenture of Marysville, Ohio, another partner on the Third Frontier project, and Ohio University recently received a $5.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a novel algae harvesting system that could lead to large-scale commercialization of algae biofuels.

The three-year, $3 million Third Frontier grant will allow Ohio University to purchase equipment and analytical software to aid these and other partners in research.

“If you’re an algae company looking for a solution, we want to be the place you call,” Bayless said. “Right now, every small company has to re-invent the wheel.”

Other partners on the grant include the University of Toledo, Center for Innovative Food Technologies, Recombinant Innovation, Harrison County Engineer, Red Lion Bio-Energy, Midwest Biorenewables, Lubrizol, Independence Bio-Products, Tri-County Career Center and Parker Hannifin.

Ohio University is one of six institutions in Ohio that will receive more than $20 million in funding through the Ohio Third Frontier Wright Projects Program, which will leverage nearly $24.5 million in additional investment in the state of Ohio. The Wright Projects Program links research capabilities of Ohio’s colleges, universities and nonprofit research institutions with specific needs of Ohio industry.

Contacts: David Bayless, (740) 331-4536, bayless@ohio.edu; Director of Research Communications Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166, gibsona@ohio.edu.