Tiny algae have big potential for Saudi Arabia’s bioeconomy

by ADeeL

A chance to construct his personal lab and the potential for his work to create an actual influence in Saudi Arabia had been two huge motivators for Kyle Lauersen when he determined to just accept a place at KAUST.

Virtually 4 years later, Lauersen, an knowledgeable in algal artificial biology and metabolic engineering, leads one of many solely devoted algal biotechnology labs within the Arabian Peninsula. His staff isolates, identifies and characterizes algal species tailored to Saudi Arabia’s excessive temperatures and cultivates these native strains in 22 purpose-built bioreactors.

“Now we have most likely the most important suite of bioreactors for rising algae of any tutorial establishment on the earth,” says Lauersen. “Each new pressure is put in six reactors to develop beneath completely different situations — steady mild, day-night biking after which one reactor every to simulate winter, spring, summer season and autumn in Saudi Arabia.”

“In a single week, we will take a look at every of these situations to see if the algae goes to carry out properly in spring or winter, or if it’ll develop properly at a particular time and place: say, in August on the coast of the Purple Sea.”

Algae are acknowledged for his or her capacity to develop in waste waters, changing nitrogen and phosphorus, with carbon dioxide into biomass stuffed with oil, protein, carbohydrates, pigments and clear water.

Nevertheless, completely different species are wanted for various situations: the dairy business, for instance, produces waste water with very low pH. “We work with algae that develop at this low pH, so we will use them to wash up this waste water and, on the identical time, they convert carbon dioxide into their biomass,” says Lauersen.

In addition to figuring out the optimum situations for progress for every new algal species, the researchers additionally characterize the algae and measure what they’re producing, resembling the quantity of oil, protein and carbohydrate.

That is vital data for individuals who wish to produce algae, for instance, for animal feed, however it’s not a fast course of — figuring out, isolating and characterizing every species can take a number of months.

“To date, we’ve remoted greater than 60 strains and that quantity grows each week,” says Lauersen. We’re constructing a dwelling library, or biobank, that may function a pure useful resource for Saudi Arabia.

Lauersen works intently with the brand new pilot algal facility on campus supported by Ministry of Atmosphere, Water and Agriculture. The power is growing manufacturing of high-protein algae for aquaculture feed.

Strains that present tolerance to the extremes of Saudi summer season warmth are handed to the pilot facility to develop and take a look at productiveness in outside situations.

“It is very important work together with the gamers within the Kingdom who’re rising the expertise,” says Lauersen.

He additionally plans to develop a research program that may meet worldwide requirements in algal expertise and schooling. “Our function can be to create instructional packages to show the following technology of bioprocess engineers to work with algae,” he says.

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