NMSU's Algal Biofuels Enterprises
New Mexico is blessed with natural and human resources needed for international leadership in the production of renewable transportation fuels from high-oil algae feedstocks. The state has large expanses of low-value, desert grass- and shrub-lands along with untapped underground brackish, saline, and produced waters that are suitable for algal cultivation but not for food or fiber production. Low rainfall and cloud cover in New Mexico provide optimal sunlight conditions for efficient, high-density photosynthetic cultivation of microalgae.
As the Land Grant University for the state, NMSU is home to the Agriculture Research Service and the Agriculture Extension Service whose missions are to provide research-driven programs to enhance profits and develop new crops and farm products through sustainable utilization of the natural resources of New Mexico. In addition, the Colleges of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, and Business are all active collaborators in the Algal Biofuel R&D enterprise at NMSU.
NMSU's Algal Biofuel Production Facility
The Fabian Garcia Science Center houses NMSU's algal biofuel production facility, which includes a 4000-liter Solix BioSystems photobioreactor and four smaller algae raceways. The Solix photobioreactor allows faster and denser production of algae than open raceway systems. The algae culture will grow in enclosed panels suspended in an open 61- by 11-foot water-filled basin. Control of various factors, such as temperature, carbon dioxide content and nutrient supply, is very precise and the panels are designed to optimize solar exposure. The result is a system that can accelerate the rate of CO2 absorption and therefore the rate of algae growth up to 10 times the rate of raceways and can produce up to three times the density of algae per liter of water.