ACS Graduate Student Symposium on Characterization of Algal Lipids

I was recently selected to organize and run a symposium at the ACS Spring 2013 National Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the characterization of algal lipids. This selection is in response to our proposal for the Graduate Student Member Symposium Grant, sponsored by the ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry.

The symposium will explore recent advances in lipid characterization during the algal biodiesel production process, including in situ algal lipid monitoring, measurements during extraction and conversion to biodiesel, and characterization of fatty acid co-products. We expect that improved knowledge of algal lipids during growth, extraction, conversion, and co-production will increase the productivity of algal biofuel feedstocks, making them an economically feasible sustainable replacement for petroleum-based fuels. Presentations will cover both industrial monitoring methods and investigation of algal lipids for improved process design.

243rd ACS National Meeting

Recently I attended the 243rd ACS National Meeting in San Diego, California, from March 25th to 29th. While there, I gave an oral presentation describing my recent progress in the dielectric measurement of algal lipid content as part of the “Challenges in Algal Biofuels: Biochemistry, Lipid Extraction and Analysis” session.

As described in the algae project page, we are developing a method to rapidly measure the lipid content of algae cells in suspension using dielectric spectroscopy. The ability to measure lipid content in real time will improve the productivity of algal biofuel feedstocks by allowing algae growers to respond to changing environmental conditions and even utilize   environmental stresses like nitrogen starvation to increase lipid output. In this presentation, I described our initial dielectric characterization of algae with a range of lipid contents.

The algal biofuel session was an excellent overview of recent progress in algal biofuel production. Presentation topics included FTIR (Fourier transform infrared) spectroscopy of algae samples, methods for avoiding culture contamination during industrial production, and programs to train the future algal biofuel workforce. Outside of the algal biofuels session, Prof. Carolyn Bertozzi from UC Berkeley gave a fascinating keynote lecture on Bio-orthogonal functional groups for labeling sugars and proteins inside of living systems. Other highlights included a presentation on whispering-gallery mode arrays for extremely sensitive detection of biomolecules, a number of presentations on processes converting algal biomass to biofuels, a poster on exploiting spherical aberrations for rapid autocorrelation of lasers, and a poster by by Pat Coller from Oak Ridge National Lab on chemical reactions resulting from the merger of microscale water droplets. Overall, attending and presenting at the ACS meeting was a rewarding experience which I plan to repeat in the future.