In a move away from dependence on fossil fuels, Israeli company Seambiotic and NASA's John Glenn Research Center will jointly research the production of microalgae, which can be used a feedstock for bio-fuel.
Seambiotic USA, a subsidiary of the Israeli company, entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA in late March to combine the agency's expertise in computing models with the Israelis' knowledge of a cost-effective method for microalgae cultivation, according to Noam Menczel, director of investor relations and business development at Seambiotic.
"This is a major achievement," he told The Jerusalem Post Monday. "Not many companies are recognized by NASA as a technology leader."
Ashkelon-based Seambiotic, founded in 2003, was the first company to use flue gas from coal-burning power stations as a source for carbon dioxide to cultivate microalgae. The nearby Israel Electric Corporation in Ashkelon serves as the source for carbon dioxide and water, which the company uses to cool its turbine.
Seambiotic uses these waste products as a raw material to cultivate the microalgae, making it the cheapest method to harvest the organism. The research was previously conducted on a pilot level, but is now transitioning to a large, industrial size.
"The whole idea is to make the process cheap," Menczel said. "NASA will develop theoretical models and we will adapt them on the field [in Ashkelon] and make it workable."
Other methods for creating bio-fuel use corn and sugar as the main substances, which are agriculture products that compete at food prices. However, algae does not face these same price fluctuations, making it a more cost-efficient choice.
As a result of the combined technology from the two groups, Menczel said, a more efficient way for the production of bio-fuel and food additives through microalgae could be found.
NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the governmental agency's 10 field centers, focused on conducting basic-level research. The center works to develop technology and advance scientific research.