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West Haven, Conn., Dec. 9, 2008-Start your engines-the race for a source of biodiesel is on, fueled by the green-minded push from President-elect Barack Obama and a re-energized scientific community. Thanks to a $135,276 grant from the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), the University of New Haven (UNH) will soon expand its own biodiesel research, examining the viability of algae from Long Island Sound as a fuel resource. The UNH grant is one of three awarded through the Connecticut Fuel Diversification Grant Program, administered by and funded by the state's Department of Economic and Community Development.
The main objective of the UNH study is to identify species of algae from Long Island Sound that could be harvested or cultivated to produce biodiesel. While algae biofuels have been under investigation for some time-indeed, some energy companies are so sure of its practicality that they have invested heavily in algae research, likewise the U.S. Department of Defense-UNH Co-Principal Research Investigator Dr. Eddie Luzik says that no one has yet studied whether the algae species prevalent in Long Island Sound contain significant or recoverable amounts of the lipids necessary to be converted to fuel.
Noting that scientists believe our current petroleum reserves (fossil fuels) may have been created largely from algae in ancient sea beds, the organic chemist adds, "The question is, can we take existing algae and streamline the process on a large scale and turn it into fuel?"
Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Marine Biology Program at UNH and Principal Investigator Carmela Cuomo, Ph.D. will take her students on a series of research cruises off the coast of various sites in New Haven Harbor, Bridgeport, Milford and West Haven to collect phytoplankton.. Following the algae collections, Cuomo and her students will identify and analyze the species collected. "We will examine a broader spectrum of species than has ever been looked at before," says Cuomo. "If we find an ideal candidate species in Long Island Sound, it could lead to local industrial development." Luzik will enlist the aid of a supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) system for an environmentally friendly extraction of lipids, and test the collected algae's fat content.
A leader in experiential education, the University of New Haven is experiencing a historic and nationally recognized surge in enrollment. Founded in 1920, the University provides its students with a unique combination of solid liberal arts and real-world, hands-on professional training. UNH is a private university with an 80-acre main campus. The University has a full-time undergraduate enrollment of more than 3,000 students-with nearly 70 percent residing in university housing-and a graduate school enrollment that exceeds 1,600. The University offers more than 80 undergraduate degrees and more than 25 graduate degrees through its four colleges, in fields such as sports management, nutrition, forensic science, music and sound recording, engineering, computer science and criminal justice. University College at UNH develops programs and courses to meet the emerging educational and training needs of educators, businesses and public and social agencies, focusing on academic excellence, convenience and flexibility. University of New Haven students study abroad through a variety of distinctive programs.