energy and sustainability


CORVALLIS - How do you design a remote-controlled vehicle that will safely transport heavy loads of hazardous material across inhospitable, rugged terrain without the material coming into direct contact with humans? Or a vehicle that is able to climb up and down stairs without spilling its load?

Teams of mechanical engineering students at Oregon State University recently designed and built functioning prototypes of just such vehicles as part of a hands-on design class aimed at exposing budding engineers to real-world problems. And on Thursday, Dec. 2, the student teams will compete against one another as they showcase their innovative designs before a panel of judges.

The event will be at 7 p.m. in Milam Auditorium, and is free and open to the public.

Devices built by 26 teams will each attempt to successfully navigate through a 10-minute challenge course while carrying as much rice as possible from a loading area to a receiving container. The course includes an L-shaped stair setup on each delivery loop.

The winning team will take its prototype on to the regional design competition, where OSU engineering student teams have won first place the past three years in a row. "This year, we have some very unique designs, so this should be an interesting evening," said Ping "Christine" Ge, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at OSU and teacher of the design class. "This is an excellent example of applying engineering skills to solve very real problems."

Load-delivery devices based on the designs developed by the OSU engineering students could be used in mining operations, agricultural applications, environmental cleanup situations, coastal preservation projects, and other applications where conventional automotive vehicles are not feasible.

The OSU class adopted an annual design contest sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, which specifies a design problem, and challenges students to find a solution.

"Oregon State is one of the few engineering programs that use the ASME challenge in the required curriculum," Ge said. "The class gives our students a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate individual strength/potential and creatively apply engineering theory to real-life problems. And the formal competition inspires young people in the audience to consider studying engineering."

OSU mechanical engineering faculty, staff and students will be on hand before and during the formal competition to answer questions.


Ping "Christine" Ge, 541-737-7713


CORVALLIS - Oregon State University Extension Service will explore a series of sustainability issues on a new cable network modeled after C-SPAN. Beginning Thursday evening, Dec. 9, viewers with cable access can tune in to some of OSU Extension's award-winning programs on the new Oregon Public Affairs Network (OPAN).

The series of eight 30-minute programs cover current public issues from rural community development to urban runoff to watershed restoration. Most stations will air the series on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Check local listings.

The first program, "Towns in Transition," follows the fate of three natural resource-dependent communities in the Pacific Northwest as they manage changes in their local industries.

Following each program, viewers can go to a special web site to learn more. Online, they can access hundreds of publications and videos produced by OSU Extension experts.

OPAN is a new nonprofit television network bringing public issues and government to the living rooms and computer terminals of Oregonians. Modeled on the nationally successful C-SPAN, OPAN is a partnership among OSU, the State Legislative Media Service, the Oregon Wireless Instructional Network (WIN) and local cable access centers in six counties - Multnomah, Lane, Polk, Linn, Benton and Deschutes.

OPAN is broadcast from 6 to 8 p.m. each night, and also will provide daily gavel-to-gavel legislative coverage in Portland and the Corvallis area. Programs can also be viewed online at http://www.opan.org.

The eight OSU Extension programs that will air on OPAN include:

  • Dec. 9: "Towns in Transition: Managing Change in Natural-Resource- Dependent Communities"


  • Dec. 16: "The Miracle at Bridge Creek"


  • Dec. 23: "Rethinking the American Dream and Why Should I Bother? Waste Prevention in the Work Place"


  • Dec. 30: "Beyond Recycling: Waste Prevention in Manufacturing and Distribution" and "Better Than Recycling: Waste Prevention in the Office"


  • Jan. 6: "Strangers in Our Waterways"


  • Jan. 13: "We all Live Downstream"


  • Jan. 20: "After the Rain: Urban Runoff"


  • Jan. 27: "Life on the Edge: Improving Riparian Function and Buying Time: Instream Restoration"

Local cable networks that will broadcast the OSU Extension series include: the Eugene area, Channel 21; Corvallis/Albany, Channel 27; Washington and Clackamas County areas, Channel 28; the Portland area, Channel 29; Monmouth/Independence, Channel 17; Bend, Channel 11; Lane and Douglas County areas, Channel 9.

For more information about OPAN programming, see: http://www.opan.org. For more information about OSU Extension programs and publications, see: http://extension.oregonstate.edu.

Story By: 

Lynn Ketchum, 541-737-0802

Distinguished Professors Speaking This Month on Climate Change, Materials Science

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two Oregon State University professors who last year earned the highest honor that OSU confers upon faculty members will make major presentations this month as part of the Distinguished Professor Lecture Series.

Chemist Douglas Keszler and marine biologist Patricia Wheeler earned the “distinguished professor” title at the end of the 2005-06 academic year for research and scholarship that has not only been prominent at OSU, but that has contributed significantly to their respective academic disciplines. Keszler’s work on transparent and printed electronics and optical materials has earned international notoriety, while Wheeler’s breakthroughs on phytoplankton have changed the way that scientists look at ocean productivity.

Keszler, a distinguished professor of chemistry in the College of Science, will discuss his latest research as well as new directions in his field in a Tuesday, May 22, lecture titled “New Materials for Energy and Process Efficiency.” The lecture is set for 3 p.m. in the Memorial Union Journey Room.

A distinguished professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences in the college of the same name, Wheeler will speak on “The Arctic Ocean: Early Exploration, Recent Scientific Expeditions and Impending Climate Impacts” on Thursday, May 31. Her talk also will begin at 3 p.m. in the MU Journey Room.

Accommodation requests related to disability should be made to the Office of the Provost via Nancy Hoffman at (541) 737-0733 or nancy.hoffman@oregonstate.edu.


Sabah Randhaw,

Wave Energy Moving Forward, Update to Congress Planned

CORVALLIS, Ore. – University research programs, private development and political interest are all continuing to move forward in initiatives to make the United States, and Oregon in particular, a leader in the development of ocean wave energy – a renewable power source seen as environmentally friendly, cost effective and increasingly practical.

A range of efforts are under way at Oregon State University to improve the technology of wave energy generation. Significant outreach programs with coastal communities are helping to integrate them into the development process. Multiple partners hope to create a national wave energy research and demonstration center in Oregon.

And on May 17, at the invitation of U.S. Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, one of the OSU scientists leading these efforts will discuss the issues with the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, a part of the Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Congressional leaders want to find out more about how wave power could help address the nation’s energy needs, and what the federal government might do to help,” said Annette von Jouanne, a professor of power electronics and energy systems in the OSU College of Engineering.

“Things are really picking up speed now,” von Jouanne said. “The public, political and agency leaders are understanding how electricity produced by waves could be a significant contributor to our energy portfolio, and people are beginning to see the value of a focused, national center to move research forward.”

In her Congressional discussion, von Jouanne said she also hopes to outline the technological obstacles that must be overcome to commercialize wave energy, the ways that streamlined permitting and agency cooperation could help, and the need for more environmental and ecological studies.

In other recent developments:

  • OSU scientists are already working on a fifth and sixth prototype of novel, direct-drive wave energy generators, with both laboratory and ocean testing anticipated this summer.
  • Preliminary applications by private industry for wave parks off the Oregon Coast have already been submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
  • OSU, the Oregon Department of Energy and other stakeholders are promoting Oregon as the optimal location for the nation’s first commercial wave park.
  • Studies have begun to examine the sociological, biological and ecosystem effects of wave energy systems, and the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center is coordinating plans for a workshop this September.
  • A Wave Energy Linear Test Bed research facility is being completed in the OSU College of Engineering, funded by multiple partners, to facilitate studies on this technology.
  • Oregon political leaders are assisting in efforts to obtain federal funding for wave energy research and a national wave energy initiative.
  • An international ocean renewable energy conference will be held at OSU this summer.

Experts say wave energy should be able to provide clean, renewable energy with minimal environmental concerns. However, challenges remain in developing ways to tap wave power with systems that are reliable, maintainable and able to survive a tough ocean environment.

Electrical engineers at OSU have been pioneers in the development of new technologies and advanced solutions to these challenges. And Oregon should be a lead player – an independent study has determined that the state is an optimal location for wave energy demonstration. It has an excellent wave energy climate and existing electrical transmission lines that would facilitate bringing power onto the grid.

OSU also has the highest-power energy systems laboratory of any university in the nation, one of the leading research programs on wave energy in the country, and the unique capabilities of the university's O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, including a 340-foot-long wave flume and the world's largest tsunami wave basin.

In the past nine years, OSU has built its wave energy program through strong collaboration with state and federal agencies, private industry, utility companies and coastal communities. Outreach to fishing and crabbing industries has been a key part of the work, and a Port Liaison Project team composed of commercial fishing experts has been involved in wave energy device siting and ocean technical expertise. OSU has also worked with a group called Fishermen Interested in Natural Energy to enable ocean testing in the late summer of 2007, and has located a low impact site for this testing.

“Our commercial fishermen are what you would consider ‘practical’ ocean experts, and they’ve been valuable partners in identifying sites that would cause the least disruption to the state’s economically-important seafood industry,” said Flaxen Conway, a Sea Grant Extension specialist. “They also have been consulted on local ocean environments, the waves, currents, debris and climate history. We’re working together with them to plan a mutually beneficial, future use of the ocean and its resources.”

Research and development of wave energy is still very young, in comparison to other forms of renewable energy such as wind power. But wave power, most likely produced by buoys that are anchored two to three miles offshore and move gently up and down with ocean swells, could produce steady and large amounts of electricity.

Studies have suggested that network of about 500 such buoys could power the business district of downtown Portland. Systems could be scaled up or down in size, whatever is needed to meet demand.

Theoretically, estimates suggest that 0.2 percent of the ocean's untapped energy could power the entire world.

Story By: 

Annette von Jouanne,

OSU Students Vote Self-Imposed Fee to Purchase “Green” Energy for Campus

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University students have overwhelmingly voted to assess themselves a fee of up to $8.50 per student each term to pay for “green” energy for the OSU campus. The proposal passed by a margin of 70.6 percent (yes votes) to 29.4 percent (no), making Oregon State one of the few colleges and universities nationally to pass such a measure.

If the maximum fee is assessed, 100 percent of OSU’s electrical consumption can be offset, according to Brandon Trelstad, the university’s campus sustainability coordinator.

“In essence, this will allow us to purchase for the university electricity produced from renewable, more environmentally friendly sources,” Trelstad said. “Right now, about 75 percent of the university’s electricity is from the burning of coal, which is one of the dirtiest, least-sustainable methods.”

Andrea Norris, director of environmental affairs for the Associated Students of OSU, said a task force of students has been actively working on a green energy campaign since last October. During the fall, the group surveyed OSU students to find out how much, if any, in additional fees students would be willing to pay so that the university could convert to renewable energy.

The result: About 68 percent of students surveyed in the fall said they’d pay up to $8.88 per term for OSU to purchase 100 percent renewable energy – results that closely paralleled the official ballot, held during the annual ASOSU general elections in April. The election drew a huge turnout and, in fact, more students voted in favor of the green energy fee than turned out for last year’s election overall, OSU officials say.

“Now the goal of the ASOSU Environmental Affairs Task Force is to reduce the green energy fee for students – or, at least, hold it steady and eventually receive funding for green energy from all stakeholders at OSU,” Norris said.

One option is to offer OSU employees the option of a voluntary payroll deduction, according to Trelstad.

“A lot of faculty and staff are interest in, and committed to, green energy for the campus,” Trelstad pointed out.

The university’s Sustainability Office and ASOSU plan to work with the Oregon Governor’s Office on a proposal to fund the purchase of renewable energy by state universities. They also will work with the OSU administration to seek additional funding from capital construction funds on upgrading energy efficiency on campus.

OSU will have a new $50 million co-generation facility on campus beginning in 2008 that will give the university much greater flexibility in purchasing and using a variety of energy forms. The fees raised by students will be used to purchase blocks of renewable energy, Trelstad said, such as wind energy from eastern Oregon that will be added to the electrical grid.

“If OSU were to purchase this amount of green energy today, we would rank an impressive third in EPA’s top 10 list of college and university ‘Green Power Partners,’” Trelstad said. More information about the EPA program can be found at http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/partners/top10ed.htm

“By purchasing such a large amount of renewable energy, we’ll be helping to increase the demand for sustainable energy, making it more attractive for potential power producers to get into the green market,” Trelstad said.

Many green power producers also offer reinvestment projects, including local solar collection or watershed enhancement projects, he added. “These projects result in hands-on learning opportunities for students and on-site renewable energy production.”

OSU recently joined a growing number of universities around the United States in an initiative to make its campus “climate neutral” by establishing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its energy usage. President Ed Ray last month signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment pledge.

The commitment requires OSU to launch a two-year planning process to outline its path toward becoming “climate neutral,” which essentially means that the university will either emit no greenhouse gases, or it will offset its emissions through energy credits and other methods.

“The commitment by students is an important step in that process,” Trelstad said.

Story By: 

Andrea Norris,

OSU Baja SAE team wins international racing competition

BURLINGTON, Wisc. – Oregon State University students in the Baja SAE off-road racing competition roared back in the final event – a four-hour endurance race - to move from fourth place to first, lapped the field and won the national championship for the second time in four years.

The students raced on June 11-14 against more than 100 other teams from universities in the U.S. and around the world, in which undergraduate students design, build and race single-seat, off-road vehicles that can handle difficult terrain. The series of events was sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

“We’re incredibly proud,” said team captain John Fellows. “We showed everyone we’re for real and our car can match up with anyone.”

Fellows said the team didn’t fare quite as well in some early events, such as the sled pull, but scored high in others such as the “mud bog” by tackling it early in the day while other teams shied away. That set the stage for a come-from-behind victory on Sunday in the grueling endurance drive, which also was the event worth the most points.

“There are a lot of bright students from engineering and other fields who take part in this competition,” said Robert Paasch, team adviser and an OSU professor of mechanical engineering. “I think what makes OSU special is that we’re really a team in the true sense of the word. We work together to get the best each person has to offer. And we beat the best teams in the world.”

This win adds to finishing in first and third places in a previous competition held in May in Washougal, Wash. Students from many of the strongest engineering programs in the nation participate in these events.

Many of the 16 team members in this competition are from the OSU College of Engineering, but there are also some participants from areas such as marketing and business. The winning car in the latest race was from the senior design project of several students. It featured a completely new power train with two forward gears and a geared reverse, rather than their typical single-forward gear with a neutral and chain-driven reverse. That design, the students said, made it very fast and particularly formidable in the endurance race.

All of the cars in this event are powered by the same 10-horsepower engines donated by Briggs and Stratton Corp., and in various events have to climb hills, maneuver around obstacles, crawl over boulders and endure a four-hour race. Judging also includes a sales presentation, design submission and cost reports.


Story By: 

Robert Paasch, 541-737-7019

Multimedia Downloads

OSU Baja Car

OSU’s winning Baja race car

OSU’s Ed Ray Signs “Presidents Climate Commitment” for Sustainability

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has joined a growing number of universities around the United States in an initiative to make its campus “climate neutral” by establishing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its energy usage.

OSU President Ed Ray this week signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment pledge.

“This is a commitment that we take quite seriously,” Ray said. “We have on our faculty international leaders in research and education on climate change and its impacts, so we have a sense of responsibility as an institution to become leaders in the operational aspects of sustainability as well.

“We have made some important strides already,” Ray added, “but we can do more.”

The commitment requires OSU to launch a two-year planning process to outline its path toward becoming “climate neutral,” which essentially means that the university will either emit no greenhouse gases, or it will offset its emissions through energy credits and other methods, said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s campus sustainability coordinator. The most likely solutions, according to Trelstad, will come through a combination of conservation, offsets, and local renewable energy sources.

Part of the planning process will be to determine a realistic date in the future by which this may be accomplished, Trelstad added, and establishing goals for achieving and tracking progress.

“There are a number of interim steps the university can take toward increasing our sustainability, from construction guidelines to travel and purchasing policies,” Trelstad said. “Part of the planning process will be to solicit ideas from students, faculty and staff, and then determine how these might best fit in with the university’s goals and missions.”

The planning process will be led by a university-wide Sustainability Council, which already is in place.

OSU’s primary energy consumption sources are through its antiquated heating plant and electricity usage. Construction is just beginning on a new energy center for the university, which will reduce the amount of energy used to heat and power the campus by an estimated 38 percent, Trelstad pointed out. Much of the university’s electricity originates in Utah from coal-fired power plants.

“By making electricity on campus and efficiently using natural gas, we’ll reduce our global warming gases extensively,” Trelstad said. “The Energy Center also will be configured to easily transition to renewable fuels – like biodiesel, and perhaps someday, even biomass – when these fuels become more financially competitive.”

Trelstad said that OSU’s participation in the Presidents Climate Commitment positions the university to deal with potential future taxes on carbon emissions.

OSU is engaged in several other energy-reducing projects:

  • A project in Bexell Hall, home of the College of Business, will reduce the amount of energy consumed by lighting by approximately 50 percent. Lighting typically represents about 25 percent of the energy used in an office building. Bexell also is implementing new computer use policies and practices that could contribute to a goal of reducing energy use in the building by 50 percent.
  • The university is exploring new software products that would reduce the energy used by campus computers. The idea, Trelstad said, is to adjust the power settings on individual computers to match the needs of users.
  • OSU has a successful sustainability audit program for campus buildings that not only looks at energy consumption, but water and paper use, and even office furniture.
  • The university also is conducting an audit of its outdoor lighting to make sure that lighting is safe for pedestrians at night, but that lights don’t come on too early – especially since the change to daylight savings.
  • Recent campus buildings have been constructed in a more environmentally sustainable manner, exemplified by the 153,000-square-foot Kelley Engineering Center. Designed to be extremely energy efficient, and constructed using sustainable materials and techniques, it received a “Gold” LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Oregon State also has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a ‘Best Workplace for Commuters’ because we have great support for a variety of alternative transportation modes,” Trelstad said. “Since transportation has an obvious and significant impact on global warming, this is important to us as a university – and we’ve been a leader in this area for a long time.”

OSU’s faculty are actively involved in a number of research efforts related to sustainability, including the development of wave energy, passively safe nuclear power, biofuels and other new forms of energy under the Sun Grant initiative; and incorporating these and other new findings into sustainability education throughout the curriculum.

More information on the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment program is available online at: http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/index.php. Information on OSU’s efforts on sustainability is available at: http://oregonstate.edu/sustainability/

Story By: 

Brandon Trelstad,

Nike General Manager to Speak on Sustainability

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Lorrie Vogel, the general manager of Nike’s Considered Design, will share why Nike chose to go green – and how the company incorporated environmental sustainability into its practices and designs – in a free public lecture at Oregon State University on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

The event is sponsored by OSU’s College of Business as part of the Sustainability Lecture Series. It will be held on campus at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center in Ballroom 110C from noon to 1:30 p.m.

“In the Considered Design, Nike has created a successful business case for sustainability,” said OSU College of Business Dean Ilene Kleinsorge. “Ms. Vogel’s message – that green doesn’t have to equal high cost – will especially resonate in our community.”

The title of Vogel’ speech will be “How Nike is Reducing Its Environmental Footprint and Incorporating Sustainability into Its Products.”

What began at Nike in 2005 with a single shoe – the award-winning Considered Boot – has evolved into a company-wide design philosophy. Nike’s Considered Design ethos embraces environmental sustainability principles without compromising product performance, company officials say, benefiting athletes and the environment. Considered Design strives to reduce toxins and waste, select eco-conscious materials and promote sustainable product innovation.

Vogel will discuss how innovation, performance, and sustainability work together in business. She will share how Nike achieves a culture in which every employee understands the company’s environmental footprint across its entire supply chain. Through specific examples, she will illustrate four key interrelated areas of focus that make the greatest environmental impact: energy, water, toxins and physical waste.

As the general manager of Nike’s Considered team, Vogel is responsible for introducing sustainable products and business models. Prior to this position she was the innovation director for Nike footwear, apparel and equipment.

Vogel has become a leading expert in design innovation. She started out as a toy designer working on products like "Speak and Spell," and then moved into advanced R&D for Texas Instruments where she conceptualized applications and products for emerging technologies.

Story By: 

Thuy Tran,

Students in Free Enterprise develop reusable water bottles for competition

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University chapter of Students in Free Enterprise took third place in a new competition for waste management and was recognized at the 2009 SIFE National Exposition held recently in Philadelphia.

The contest, sponsored by Waste Management, was in the Environmental Sustainability Competition, part of the Topic and Special Competitions, a new award category introduced in the 2008-09 academic year.

A total of 107 teams from colleges and universities around the nation competed in the waste management topic competition where the OSU team presented a sustainability project called Think!BLUE, a student-run business that sells reusable water bottles to raise awareness about water-related issues and discourages the use of disposable water bottles.

The teams were judged on how effectively each measured and demonstrated that it helped others to make environmentally sustainable personal and business decisions. Judging criteria included market economics, success kills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, environment sustainability and business ethics. The final criterion was program sustainability, which encompasses a team’s entire program.

Heading the OSU student project were Kelly Fitzpatrick, a sophomore in accounting and finance, and Kim Pendergrass, a sophomore in marketing and art history. “We are very proud and excited of the progress that we have made in just a short amount of time,” said Fitzpatrick.

Pendergrass said Think!BLUE is planning to expand its product line and establish an online presence soon. She added the OSU team plans to return to the competition next year with more projects to help build national recognition.

Profits from the bottle project go toward teaching sustainability and carbon footprint reduction to middle school students in the Science & Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE) program. Sandy Neubaum, associate director of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program at OSU and the club faculty adviser, said her students aren’t just looking to make money, “but give back as much as they make.”

Students in Free Enterprise is a non-profit social entrepreneurship club devoted to making a positive, sustainable difference in the global community.

Story By: 

Sandy Neubaum, 541-713-8042

OSU Research Could Lead To Bio-fuels Processed From Algae

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University are working to find an efficient method of processing bio-diesel fuel and ethanol from one of the world’s most plentiful organisms – algae – which could lead to breakthroughs in reducing the world's dependency on petroleum.

Applying the findings to mass-produce algae and extract its oils could be five to 10 years in the future, but the advantages are worth the wait, according to Ganti Murthy, assistant professor of biological and ecological engineering at OSU.

Algae are versatile organisms that are "plant-like" but do not have a root system or leaves. Plants pull water and nutrients through their roots and release vapor through their leaves in a process called transpiration. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that an acre of corn transpires about 4,000 gallons of water a day. Because algae do not have such a vascular system, they use water only as a medium for growing.

"In a closed growing system,” Murthy said, “algae require 99 percent less water than any other crop.”

Another advantage to growing algae is that varieties of the organism have been found flourishing in all kinds of environments – from the Arctic to tropical areas – and in both fresh and salt water. Therefore, Murthy said, growing algae "is not a food-versus-fuel issue; algae can be grown using waste-water and in areas that cannot support agriculture."

Algae also are highly productive compared to conventional crops. For example, a productivity model estimates that 48 gallons of bio-diesel can be produced from an acre of soybeans, whereas algae could produce 819 gallons – and theoretically as much as 5,000 gallons – from a single acre.

One of algae's most remarkable qualities is that it can grow using carbon dioxide generated from fossil-fuel combustion, according to Murthy. Greenhouse gases from industry and coal-fired electrical-generating plants can be piped to algae ponds, where carbon dioxide is a necessary ingredient for growth. In fact, research has shown that algae can grow 30 percent faster than normal when fed carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel combustion.

At the OSU Sustainable Technologies Laboratory, Murthy has built two small photobioreactors to grow microscopic algae in a closed system. They are simple, plastic cylinders that have advantages over an open-pond system in greater productivity, reduced contamination and better control of growth. It takes about three weeks for the algae—combined with light, water, carbon dioxide and mineral nutrients—to multiply and turn the water green.

The primary focus of the OSU lab is to discover efficient ways to extract the oils (also called lipids) and process them into bio-diesel fuel and ethanol, with fertilizer and animal feed as co-products. The biggest challenge, according to Murthy, is separating water from the micro algae he is testing (Chlorella and Dunaliella), which must continually be mixed with carbon dioxide and light as they grow. A combination of straining and centrifuging is the current method of extraction.

Of the more than 3,000 known strains of algae, Murthy grows both fresh water and salt water varieties. The photobioreactors hold about six gallons of water and produce about .17 pounds of algae with each batch.

"Depending on the algae growth conditions, we can usually extract 20 to 30 percent oil from it, and up to 60 percent is possible," he said.

Commercialization of algal bio-fuel and ethanol is a long way off. Yet, with many questions to answer and challenges to overcome, Murthy is undaunted. "A lot of people are working on it," he said, "It's just a matter of putting it together, making it work."

Murthy's work at OSU has been funded by a grant from the Agriculture Research Foundation.



Ganti Murthy,