Peter Lammers, an authority on the cultivation of one of the tiniest plants on Earth, is leading New Mexico State University’s research on algal biofuels. Lammers directs multi-disciplinary research utilizing genomics, biochemistry, microbiology, physiology and economics. The goal: to improve microalgal cultivation and oil extraction and establish the best equation, substance and process to produce economically feasible biofuels from algae.
NMSU is part of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB), a consortium of universities and research institutions awarded $49 million by the U.S. Department of Energy to commercialize algae into a biofuel. Lammers is co-lead of the algal cultivation team for NAABB and his research centers on developing different strains to optimize the lipid and reproductive growth of algae.
One goal is the development of a “scalable system for the cultivation and harvesting of algae as well as the extraction of biocrude oils for sale to agro-businesses and fuel refineries,” Lammers explains.
“Algae are far more efficient at using sunlight to make lipid than any plant species,” he adds. “Plus, you can grow algae in the desert using brackish water—this avoids competition for arable land between food and fuel producers.”
Lammers’ team is uniquely positioned to spearhead this national effort. NMSU, with campuses and research facilities in the desert, is well equipped with the natural and human resources needed for leadership in the production of renewable transportation fuels. The university is producing its own algae from two 1,000-liter raceway algae ponds and will soon complete work on an additional pair of 1,000-liter raceway ponds as well as a 4,000-liter photobioreactor.
Lammers is technical director of the NMSU Algal Bioenergy Program. He earned his undergraduate degree in science from the University of Idaho and his Ph.D. in environmental biochemistry from Portland State University. Lammers co-authored the algae cultivation section of the Department of Energy’s Algal Biofuels Roadmap.