February 23, 2024

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Predicting Algae Potential as Alternative Energy Source with AI

Research scientists are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to set a new world record for producing algae as a reliable, economic source for biofuel that can be used as an alternative fuel source for jet aircraft and other transportation needs. The team’s findings were published in January in Nature Communications. Ongoing research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Fossil Energy Office.

The commercialisation of algal biofuel has been hindered by the relatively low yield and high harvesting cost. The limited light penetration and poor cultivation dynamics both contributed to the low yield. Overcoming these challenges could enable viable algal biofuels to reduce carbon emissions, mitigate climate change, alleviate petroleum dependency and transform the bioeconomy.

The researchers have previously been successful at finding methods to convert corn stubble, grasses and mesquite into biodegradable, lightweight materials and bioplastics. His latest project utilises a patented artificial intelligence advanced learning model to predict algae light penetration, growth and optimal density. The prediction model allows for continual harvest of synthetic algae using hydroponics to maintain the rapid growth at the optimal density to allow the best light availability.

Algae can be used as an alternative energy source for many industries, including biofuel and jet fuel. Algae is a good alternative fuel source for this industry. It’s an alternate feedstock for bioethanol refinery without the need for pretreatment. It’s lower cost than coal or natural gas. It also provides for a more efficient way of carbon capture and utilisation

Algae biofuel is regarded as one of the ultimate solutions for renewable energy, but its commercialisation is hindered by growth limitations caused by mutual shading and high harvest costs. We overcome these challenges by advancing machine learning to inform the design of a Semi-continuous Algal Cultivation (SAC) to sustain optimal cell growth and minimise mutual shading. We are using an aggregation-based sedimentation strategy designed to achieve low-cost biomass harvesting and economical SAC.

– Joshua Yuan, PhD, AgriLife Research Scientist

Scaling up the SAC with an outdoor pond system achieves a biomass yield of 43.3 grams per square meter per day, bringing the minimum biomass selling price down to approximately $281 per ton, according to the journal article. In comparison, the standard low-cost feedstock for biomass in ethanol is corn, which is currently approximately $6 per bushel or $260 per ton. However, Yuan’s process does not call for costly pre-treatment before fermentation. Corn must be ground and the mash must be cooked before fermentation.

Algae as a renewable fuel source was a hot topic a decade ago. As a result, there’s a lot of scepticism. I was even sceptical. However, the work that Joshua is doing is incredibly innovative. We were excited to partner on this project. At the productivity levels, they obtain—and given the low-cost harvest that the strain allows—it shows a lot of promise.

Despite the significant potential and extensive efforts, the commercialisation of algal biofuel has been hindered by limited sunlight penetration, poor cultivation dynamics, relatively low yield, and the absence of cost-effective industrial harvest methods. This technology is proven to be affordable and help propel algae as a true alternative form of energy.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $175 million for 68 research and development projects aimed at developing disruptive technologies to strengthen the nation’s advanced energy enterprise. Led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the OPEN 2021 program prioritises funding high-impact, high-risk technologies that support novel approaches to clean energy challenges. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory was awarded $7.8 million for three projects.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

PARTNER

CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

PARTNER

Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

PARTNER

HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

PARTNER

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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