Sandia Labs eye algae to fuel nation's energy independence

Posted at: 05/02/2013 6:58 PM
By: Joseph Lynch, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are taking green to a whole new level. Scientists are using algae to create fuel for cars.

"It's extremely important for us to solve some of these problems and get a new source of energy into the field,” lab researcher Jerri Timlin said.

Timlin said she thinks an algae answer may be closer than anyone thinks.

"In the next five year time-frame is really going to tell us whether or not algal bio-fuels can be commercially viable,” she said. “Whether we can make the fuel cheaply enough to replace the current technologies."

Scientists have created a bio fuel from algae in the lab, but the key is to be able to produce it on a consumer scale.

"I see it as a when situation- not an if,” Timlin said. “We have no choice. Our fuel sources are running out and we have to make a change in how we're living."

Researcher Aaron Collins tests different types of algae in the albuquerque lab. He monitors algae ponds hundreds of miles away in Gilbert, arizona.  State-of- the-art sensors feed information to his computer screen in five minute increments.  He's watching to see how long the algae stays healthy and viable.

Collins said energy independence is a challenge that's fueling him.

"We won't want to ship them all over the world,” he said. “We'll want to use them domestically- so it's sort of selfish way to think about our national interest way that's also beneficial."

The U.S. Energy Department is funding the resarch.