San Diego researchers win DOE grant for algae-based polymer work


In San Diego, researchers in the chemistry and biology departments of the University of California have been awarded a $2 million grant from the US Department of Energy to advance their algae-based polymers research.

“We propose to develop novel algae platforms for the production of one of the key monomers used to make polyurethane polymers, while simultaneously developing basic tools to enable improved algal production systems that will accelerate the process from initial concept to market supply,” says Stephen Mayfield, the project’s leader. Mayfield is also director of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology and the Food & Fuel for the 21st Century program.

The DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office recently handed out $80 million to 36 projects in biobased research.

Mayfield has already produced algae-based surfboards and flip-flops along with fell UC San Diego professors Michael Burkart and Skip Pomeroy. “Our strategy is to go from renewable algae feedstocks all the way to products that people actually want to buy,” Burkart says. “The surfboards were a big success, and we are excited to see how people like the flip-flops. Our goal is to get to 100 percent renewability and biodegradability. I believe that we can make an impact.”