March 2011, Evolugate was awarded a phase 1 SBIR grant from the Army Research Laboratory to increase the maximal growth temperature of a strain of heterotrophic algae.
Increasing the maximal growth temperature will reduce the ratio of unsaturated fatty acids in the algal oil, and make it more suitable for conversion to bio jet-fuel. Using its proprietary technology the Evolugator™, Evolugate will develop the new strain by successively adapting the alga to steadily increasing temperatures until the ratio of unsaturated fatty acids in the oil it produces is significantly reduced for several levels of growth temperatures.
There is tremendous interest in algal oil because many experts are convinced that converting algal oil to biofuels is the most viable method by which enough transportation fuel can be produced to replace current diesel consumption worldwide. Algae, especially the heterotrophic ones, have a lot of advantages as a raw material for biofuel production : They have a faster growth rate than any terrestrial crop ; they have a yield of oil per unit area higher than any other oil crop ; they can grow without competing for resources (land, feedstock, water) with food crops.
Algal oil is rich in fatty acids, which makes it suitable for conversion to biodiesel. However, biodiesel has a number of characteristics that make it inappropriate for airplanes. For example, it has poor cold flow properties, a lower energy density than fossil diesel, and higher kinetic viscosity. Reducing the ratio of unsaturated fatty acids in algal oil will make it a proper raw material for subsequent conversion into a biofuel that has the advantages of fossil jet fuel and none of its inconveniences (i.e. carbon print, oil prices, dependence on foreign oil).
The Army Research Laboratory provides innovative science, technology and analyses to enable a full spectrum of military operations. It serves as the bridge between the scientific and technical communities and the Army while being the lead in providing innovative solutions for current and future soldiers.