LightWorks Blog

Shell GameChanger: Investing in energy innovation for the future

published December 5, 2013, 3:17 pm

Since its foundation in 1996, Shell GameChanger has practiced its open invitation to innovative ideas that have the potential to impact the future of energy. On November 13, GameChangers Henk Mooiweer and Hans Haringa visited Arizona State University to discuss how the program is working toward increasing innovation at Shell by turning ideas into reality. The lecture was made possible by the co-sponsoring of ASU LightWorks and the Center for Science and the Imagination.

Shell GameChanger header image. Photo retrieved from Shell GameChanger homepage.

Mooiweer first began by explaining Shell’s progress in research and development compared to other large energy companies. The company invests in more R&D than any other international oil company and hires the top engineers and scientists to focus on energy challenges. Although technology innovation is a core investment at Shell, Mooiweer said that getting ideas to the table can sometimes be a challenge. Mooiweer explained that some of Shell’s challenges are communicating and connecting with the public and investing in innovation from outside sources. These challenges are answered by the mission of Shell GameChanger, which is to identify unproven ideas submitted to them from the public and create a proved concept plan for those ideas.

Anybody can submit a project proposal. If the project is promising, Shell GameChanger contacts the innovator right away. To date, the program has worked with over 1,500 innovators and turned more than 100 into reality. “GameChanger projects mostly fail about 90% of the time,” Mooiweer explained. “But that’s okay, because the point is to continuously refresh the R&D portfolio and testing out of new ideas.” Shell GameChanger works with innovators from a variety of different fields. Haringa noted connecting with ASU faculty and students at the first Herberger Institute for Design and Arts Emerge event in 2012. Shell GameChanger hosted a workshop at the event that encouraged attendees to imagine alternative futures and then build artifacts on a 3D printer to capture the material makeup. The workshop generated a plethora of ideas which gave Shell GameChanger a sense of where innovation is heading. Haringa believes that innovation is ultimately found on the edge. In other words, innovative ideas do not necessarily come from energy experts, making interdisciplinary perspective all the more necessary
Shell GameChanger aims to boost the future development of Shell’s energy resources. One project proposal that Shell GameChanger funded was SWELLFLEX®, which is a “synthetic rubber seal that swells on contact with water and can withstand enormous heat and pressure from underground by swelling as soon as water appears.”  Shell uses this seal to prevent water from entering the well and keep the oil flowing, which ultimately lengthens a well’s life. By lengthening a well’s life, the company has more opportunity for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) which increases the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from a field. This can be perceived as positively benefiting the environment because the company can focus on tapping fewer wells, although it is still a non-renewable fuel technology and should eventually be replaced by new innovations in renewable energy. Below is a video explaining the project further.

Although Shell primarily focuses on oil and gas projects, through Shell GameChanger the company is making steps toward making this process more efficient and sustainable. Shell GameChanger also welcomes ideas that do not necessarily focus on combustible energy. The point of GameChanger is to welcome innovation as progress and recognize that change at Shell will be inevitable. Haringa quoted Marshall McLuhan, Canadian philosopher of communication theory, who wrote, “It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.” The future of energy will be shaped by people presenting their innovative ideas to progress us forward. If you have an idea to benefit our energy future, visit Shell GameChanger’s website to submit your idea.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

Economics for energy in Spain: Xavier Labandeira says, “We’re well on our way.”

published November 22, 2013, 10:11 am

On October 30, 2013, Xavier Labandeira, professor of the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Vigo and Director of Economics of Energy, presented a lecture at ASU Global Institute of Sustainability. Labandeira discussed Spanish policies to promote renewable energy and assessed their effectiveness within a wider energy public-policy context.

Photo of Xavier Labandeira retrieved from Labandeira’s personal Twitter account.

Labandeira first gave a picture of Spain’s reasons for renewable energy development. He explained that Spain’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were 15% higher in the early 2000s from 1990. Implementation of the EU's Integrated Energy and Climate Change Package from the year 2007 greatly helped decrease that level by presenting three key targets, known as the “20-20-20” targets, for 2020.

  • A 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels
  • Raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%
  • A 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency

Spain also developed green certificates, feed-in tariffs (FIT), and created a market for wind and solar. Spain experienced a balanced and consistent growth with wind energy. The country also experienced successes in solar PV development. In 2008, Spain held the title of the world’s highest capacity and most efficient solar PV plant. “Spain was an early achiever in renewable energy promotion,” Labandeira said.

Although generally optimistic, Labandeira did recognize the criticism Spain received on their feed-in-tariffs program. Labandeira explained that problems were created by the difficulties to transmit costs to consumers during an economic crisis. Still, there is hope for the future as Labandeira pointed out lessons learned. He ultimately believes implementing stable renewable energy policies will keep Spain from another large imbalance and boom and bust episode. He said that Spain’s overall interest in energy dependence, industrial development, and environmental benefits will push renewable energy policy forward. Below is a video of Labandeira and his colleague Klaas Würzburg discussing the relationship between economics and the environment, as part of their research in Europe and Spain.

Labandeira works on transmitting useful energy research to Spanish society through Economics for Energy, a private research center that specializes in the analysis of current and complex energy issues. Economics for Energy transfers knowledge through reports and organization of seminars and workshops to engage representatives of companies, institutions, and academics. Arizona State University has a similar program called the Energy Policy and Innovation Council (EPIC). EPIC aims to inform and educate policymakers on energy policy issues to advance Arizona’s energy industry potential. These research centers are important to creating clean energy policies that will work for our world today and into the future.
Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

Making good: Solar Mosaic’s Billy Parish inspires future “changemakers”

published November 5, 2013, 4:21 pm

On October 2, ASU’s Changemaker Central hosted Billy Parish, founder and president of Solar Mosaic, The Energy Action Coalition, and Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Climate Hero”. Parish led a student engagement brunch and followed up with an evening lecture in which he shared his inspiring life experience. Parish designed his lecture in a workshop format leaving behind resonating lessons for the audience.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Billy Parish speaking to the audience. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Lesson #1—Follow your purpose

Parish explained that he found his purpose in the summer of his sophomore year of college when travelling abroad in India. He had been there to study the country’s economic development, but instead found an interest in the Gaumukh glacier. This glacier is the source of the Ganges River that provides more than 400 million people with drinking water. Parish found that this glacier has been retreating for years and that by the year 2030, it could disappear altogether.

Shortly after his travels, Parish dropped out of Yale to help build what would become the largest youth organization in the world focused on clean energy and climate solutions. The Energy Action Coalition helped create over 50 diverse, youth-led environmental and social justice organizations dedicated to advancing a clean and just energy future.

Combating climate change is Billy Parish’s purpose in life. He then asked the audience to reach for the index cards on our seats and write down ours. He explained that our purpose changes through the years, but to write down the first thing that came to mind. As the audience grew silent thinking and writing, I looked up to see Parish also writing down his own statement of purpose. He then asked for all audience members to collectively stand up and shout out their aspiration. This was to solidify our commitment to our purpose just like he had done.

Lesson #2—Build with the best

In 2005, Parish helped the Energy Action Coalition launch the Campus Climate Change, “a three-year campaign to unite students and young people in achieving clean energy policies on thousands of campuses and communities”. Parish explained that none of their work would be possible without receiving the best support. Parish even said that one of the first people the coalition connected with was ASU President Michael Crow. It was important for their group to engage with the “changemakers” of these universities.

As of December 2011, the Energy Action Coalition has inspired 685 campuses to commit to the President’s Climate Commitment, a campus carbon neutrality pledge. Parish warned about the myth of the entrepreneur. “It’s not just one that makes it happen,” Parish said. “Networking people, that’s how it works!” Parish then asked the audience to write down five people that could get us closer to fulfilling our purpose. This was to get the audience thinking of collaborating with other people who share similar goals.

Lesson #3—Go to the root

It wasn’t until Parish watched a TED talk by Bill Gates that he found out the root to combating climate change. Gates explained in his lecture that the world will need to get to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Gates provided a time frame, equation, and steps for the world to get there.

Video: Bill Gates: Innovating to zero! via TED Talks.

Parish explained that breaking down climate change to the root allowed him to establish his company Mosaic. Parish believes that climate change can be combatted through harnessing capitalism. His company functions like a renewable energy bank, by soliciting investments for solar projects and making loans to be paid back, typically, over 10 years. It ultimately aims to be the number one investment platform for clean energy. Parish believes that bringing small-scale decentralized solar projects to investors is his way of building a path to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Parish explained that he has found the intersection between work and doing good. Every day Parish goes to work and steps closer toward his purpose of creating a cleaner world. He explained that planning the next steps to fulfill your purpose is important—whether that be continuing education, joining an organization, working within an institution, or becoming an apprentice. He asked the audience to write down what next step that we plan to take. He then asked how this step can provide an opening toward their intersection of work and good in a changing world. Below is a video of Parish speaking about finding your place in the universe.

Video: Find Your Place in the Universe: Billy Parish via TED Talks.

Parish is a “changemaker” because he applies his expertise and passion for positive social and environmental progress. Parish’s lecture not only highlighted his incredible journey of working toward a clean energy future, but it also empowers ASU students and faculty that we could do the same with our own interests. To learn more about what Parish is currently working on, visit his blog here.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

Clean energy stiches: Paul Nosa’s Solar Sewing Rover visits ASU

published October 24, 2013, 9:27 am

On September 27, 2013, visual artist and Arizona native Paul Nosa visited the Global Institute of Sustainability and the ASU Art Museum for a sewing performance with his Solar Sewing Rover. The sewing machine is portable and powered by a solar panel or a bicycle with an electric generator. Nosa is currently on a cross-country tour to promote people’s creativity, providing a tangible sewn patch of their ideas, and to teach how to use alternative energy sources.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Paul Nosa stitching on his solar-powered sewing machine. Photo retrieved from Paul Nosa’s website.

Nosa started the performance by asking the audience to give him a scenario, using five-words-or-less. A member from the audience shouted out “sustainable off-roading” another shouted, “cities of the future”. Nosa then began to stich these ideas into a tangible sewn patch. The point was to get a creative and tangible picture of the audience’s ideas and imagination.

“Sustainable off-roading”. Paul Nosa stiched a four-wheeler running on algae biofuel. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

The portable Solar Sewing Rover is designed to be powered off of a solar panel or a bicycle electric generator. The solar panel he uses is a 50-watt panel which transmits energy into a charger regulator and into a battery. The energy then travels through the invertor which converts the direct-current (DC) circuit into an alternating current (AC) circuit to power the sewing machine. The bicycle electric generator stores energy from peddling on the bike. The energy generated from peddling travels through the same process of charger regulator-to-battery-to-invertor system. Nosa said that for every ten minutes of peddling he can sew for one hour. Below is a video made by Paul Nosa explaining his method of powering through a bicycle generator.

The combination of art and science is what makes Nosa’s invention truly inspiring. Nosa is encouraging the creativity and imagination of his audience, while also highlighting innovative uses for alternative energy. To learn more about Paul Nosa’s sewing method and use of clean energy, visit his website.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, LightWorks

Additional Information:

Securing clean energy through policy: Spotlighting ASU’s Energy Policy Innovation Council

published October 4, 2013, 10:36 am

The Energy Policy Innovation Council (EPIC) is a leading-edge initiative developed by Arizona State University’s Program on Law and Sustainability. This fast-acting think tank is designed to inform and educate policymakers on current and complex issues in energy policy to advance Arizona’s energy industry potential. EPIC stands to solve one of the most pressing legal questions of sustainability today—securing clean energy laws and regulations for the future.

Solar panels atop Lattie F. Coor Hall on ASU’s Tempe campus. Photo by Michael Arellano, ASU State Press.

An important aspect of EPIC is the student researchers that work hard to develop fact-based summaries on energy policy issues. Student researchers write brief sheets of the latest existing and pending policy information that is published on the initiative's website. Student researchers also have the opportunity to attend relevant public hearings and work on customized projects for municipalities and state government. Below is an interview with Michael O’Boyle, a law student and EPIC student researcher who plans on graduating next May.   

Note: all opinions expressed by those interviewed are held by the individual and should not be considered endorsements.

How does the knowledge that you gain in your law courses help you out as a student researcher for EPIC? 

I suppose there are two main ways that law school has prepared me as a student researcher at EPIC. I write a lot for EPIC and law school is all about communicating complex subjects in a clear and concise manner. Second, energy policy is extremely complicated. It implicates federal, state, and local laws that are often written in technical language. Law school has not only helped me understand how those laws all fit together, it has given me a frame of reference to read and interpret statutes and administrative regulations that I otherwise would not have. Legal issues I discuss in class also help me to come up with new ideas for research topics in the brief sheets I draft for EPIC.

What is your concept or definition of sustainability law?

I think sustainability law is the study of how to use the law to incentivize sustainable living. Without laws, we end up with all kinds of environmental problems, including overuse of fossil fuels and overconsumption. I think that the rational way to act as a society is often different than what’s rational as an individual, or at least that’s our common perception. In other words, we’re really bad at making smart day-to-day decisions about protecting the environment. Sometimes walking an extra 50 feet to recycle a plastic bottle seems like an insurmountable obstacle. Coal power is cheaper than solar power, by a factor of three to five, and we like cheap power. But there are so many negative externalities associated with improper waste disposal and dirty power production that we are just now becoming aware of. Sustainability law helps to incentivize people to act in their own best interest, or in the best interest of their children, when they otherwise wouldn’t.

How did you become interested in clean energy policy?

I’ve always been an environmentally conscious person, but I’m not sure exactly where it came from. As I grew up I heard more and more about the climate change problem as the “problem of our generation,” and at some point I felt like it was a call to action, rather than just something I thought about sometimes. I first became interested in clean energy policy specifically sometime in college, but it sharpened and intensified in 2009-2010. In 2009 I studied abroad in Shanghai, China, and the pollution was staggering. China, if you’ve never been, is one big environmental disaster. I figured out that China’s rapidly expanding economy was being powered by cheap, dirty coal power, and it was clear that clean energy would have to be a part of the solution there. I got idealistic as you might expect from a 21 year-old, and I decided to write my senior thesis on environmental ethics. Then I interned at the office of Al Gore in Nashville in my final year at Vanderbilt, and my interest in energy policy kind of took off from there. My first, admittedly horrible, job out of college was selling solar power systems for a shady sell-first-ask-questions-later type of door-to-door sales company. After that flopped I knew I wanted to do something with my life that involved being a part of the solution to climate change, and clean energy policy at ASU law seemed like the best place to start, especially as a resident of Arizona.

What are your plans for after you graduate? Are you working on any research/projects that you are particularly interested in?

I don’t have a definitive career in mind after I graduate. As you know, law school is expensive, and it comes with a heavy debt burden for almost all graduates. While I’d like to work on climate and/or energy policy, I know that entry-level policy jobs, if they exist at all, can sometimes mean a pay cut for a recent graduate. I currently work for an environmental compliance and litigation firm here in town that has provided great education and interesting work so far, so I may take my chances working for large industrial clients to start, and see how that goes. I’m really looking for the right mix of hands-on experience, difference making, and work-life balance.

As for research, I’m working on a couple of interesting projects. Last summer, I went to the International Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany as part of a law school-related project funded by the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at ASU. I’m now working on finishing a paper on what lessons the climate regime can learn from the evolution of the human rights regime. It’s kind of an applied comparative international law paper, and I love the project. I’m also working on an article for the Arizona State Law Journal at the law school on national renewable energy policy, but that’s all I can say at this point, it’s kind of an undeveloped project right now.

What do you hope to see in the future in terms of clean energy policy in Arizona?

I’d like to see Arizona become a model for other states that are trying to go sustainable, especially when it comes to solar power and water conservation. I think that people are still not sold that we can afford a transition to renewable energy, especially because of the recession, but I think we can’t afford not to. It’s so clear to me that big industry, utilities and fossil fuel producers, are so scared of the impending change that they’re throwing absurd amounts of money at stalling and reversing the transition. So, I figure, we must be doing something right. If as a state we can continue to show that economic prosperity and renewable energy are synergistic (no pun intended) rather than antagonistic, I think we can make converts out of people. In arguably one of the most conservative states in the country, we’ve managed to buck partisan politics when it comes to renewable energy and achieve the highest per capita solar power production in the nation. We’re in that sweet spot where libertarianism meets tree-hugging. I think if that trend continues and we add to it some in-state solar manufacturing jobs, we can create a model that is contagious for the rest of the country.

End of interview.

Ideally, law and ethics should go hand in hand. The EPIC initiative is unique in that it not only aims to further the best practices for clean energy policy, but it encourages students to form opinions and strategies around what it means to lawfully embody a clean energy future. Securing clean energy through policy is one step closer toward a sustainable world. Below is a video interview of Kristen Mayes, Faculty Director of the Program on Law and Sustainability and Executive Director of EPIC.

Q&A with Kristin Mayes from Sustainability @ ASU on Vimeo.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

ASU solar to fuel research aims for higher efficiency

published September 10, 2013, 8:31 am

ASU’s Biodesign Institute kicked off the Fall 2013 semester by hosting an interesting lecture featuring the research findings of Assistant Professor Candace K. Chan of ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, and Energy (SEMTE).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
A photo of the mineral Libethenite. Photo retrieved from Chan Lab @ ASU website.

Chan’s research team has been interested in designing and studying the properties of nanostructured materials for applications including electrochemical energy storage, photoelectrochemical solar energy conversion, and renewable hydrogen generation. This lecture hit on the team’s recent findings that Libethenite, a rare copper mineral naturally found in Arizona, has been found to absorb light and distribute the energy. Chan explained that her team did a photocurrent test in which they applied a voltage to see what kind of photo-activity existed within the mineral. They worked with a variety of different elements and saw an increase of activity levels when reacting with Libethenite. This is important to the field of solar energy because Libethenite could potentially serve as an n-type semiconductor that can be used inside a photovoltaic (PV) solar cell. With more research and development, Lebethenite, serving as an n-type semiconductor, could create a greater efficiency of converting light energy into electric energy in solar cells. Through the higher level of efficiency in artificial photosynthesis, solar fuel can then be produced and stored for later usage which is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option from traditional fossil fuels. For more information on Candace K. Chan’s research click here.

Solar to fuel research and development is an important initiative at ASU LightWorks. The initiative aims to engage physical, social, and engineering sciences to further develop solar to fuels technology in order to fulfill its role as an alternative to fueling transportation systems. Solar to fuels technology is a newer area of research and needs to be further developed in order to compete economically with fossil fuels. In time, solar to fuels technology could fill an important role in the area of renewable fuel sources. Continuing to develop renewable fuel sources that not only reduce carbon dioxide, but also meet the nation’s energy demand is an integral way to creating a more sustainable future.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

Act on climate Phoenix: game-changing steps to combat climate change

published August 8, 2013, 12:06 pm

On July 31, 2013, over 150 Phoenicians and 20 participating community organizations took part in the “I Will Act” on climate change challenge. The Act On Climate Change Phoenix event kicked off with an outdoor press conference in the Civic Space Park featuring elected officials, climate experts, and community members. Organizers of the event passed out red umbrellas, sporting the Twitter handle #ActOnClimate, as a visual demonstration against climate change. The red umbrellas were then donated to the homeless and public transit riders to be used for shading against the hot Phoenix sun.

Act On Climate PHX press conference. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

Following the press conference, the public gathered inside the A.E. England Building lobby to interact with community organizers at their informational tables. The Act on Climate PHX event hosted many recognizable organizations such as Local First Arizona, Keep Phoenix Beautiful, the Sierra Club and more. ASU LightWorks communications team was also there and talked to the public about what ASU is doing to combat climate change by developing research in clean energy and clean energy technology. Check out event photos from ASU LightWorks here.

LightWorks Communications Specialist Sarah Mason explaining energy solutions. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

After engaging with community partners, event attendees gathered inside the A.E. England Building Auditorium for an informative speaker series. Highlights from the series included a lecture from Arizona energy policy advisor and consultant Nancy LaPlaca. LaPlaca opened her lecture with a powerful fact—Arizona is the sunniest state in the nation yet we get most of our energy from coal. Fossil fuels, like coal, have been contributed with speeding up the rate of climate change. “There is no reason for Arizona to continue getting the majority of our energy from coal” LaPlaca said.  She believes that there is a great potential for solar but it takes effort from state residents. LaPlaca encouraged the audience to support solar energy development in Arizona by writing to their politicians. LaPlaca also noted the benefits of rooftop solar for homeowners. “The more time that goes on, the more you save money” LaPlaca said. She believes that installing solar on homes is an energy efficient way to individually combat climate change.

Nancy LaPlaca speaking at the Act On Climate PHX event. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

The keynote speaker Eric Corey Freed, Founding Principal, organicARCHITECT, also gave a powerful lecture about energy efficient building designs and architecture. Freed noted the need to eliminate urban sprawl and instead create spaces that allow people to walk to destinations instead of drive. Most of Freed’s urban designs are modeled after spaces that resemble medieval cities, where housing surrounds a bustling city center. He unveiled designs for a local community in Mesa modeled after concepts he discovered in Barcelona, where each housing unit meets at a public square. Although currently a victim of urban sprawl, all is not lost for Phoenix. Fellow speaker at the event Nancy SeLover, Arizona State Climatologist, stated “the urban heat island can be used as a test bed to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies that can be used now and into the future”. Below is a video of Freed discussing his work as an organic architect.

Eric Corey Freed talks about his inspiration for green buildings. Video retrieved from Green Living TV.

President Barack Obama issued the need to combat climate change in his speech at George Town University this past June. President Obama stated that “the question is not whether we need to act…the question is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late”. The time to be aware of climate change has already passed; now is the time to act with solutions. Being energy efficient and supporting clean energy development is a great step toward implementing solutions to combat climate change. Community outreach events like Act On Climate Phoenix allow members of the public to come together and discuss game-changing ideas to better impact our environment.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

Not just biofuel: spotlighting the variety of non-fuel options for algae

published August 6, 2013, 10:03 am

Although algae has been highlighted for its potential as an alternative fuel source, this special microorganism has also established itself in an array of other marketable fields. Feeds, cosmetics, and plastics are only a few areas in which algae can be utilized to create a product. This blog post will dive deeper into areas of algae research that strengthen and secure the future of important markets other than energy.

Illustration of the various uses for algae by Nils-Petter Ekwall. Retrieved from Sweden.Se’s article “10 ingenious uses for algae”.


We use a lot of plastic. The Clean Air Council reports that Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. Items that are used often such as disposable packaging containers at restaurants, agricultural and horticultural plastic films, and plastic encasings for makeup, technology, and the like are in need of a sustainable alternative to decrease our carbon footprint. Biodegradable  plastics fulfill a need for our plastic consumption because they decompose into natural elements in a reasonable amount of time. The company Algix has been developing a new breed of organic algae plastics to be used in industrial, commercial and retail applications. Algae plastics are still in the early beginnings and have been questioned because of its lack of durability, butsome researchers believe that genetic engineering of certain algae strains will provide the same quality of traditional plastics in time.


Algae is made up of nutrient rich compounds that have been proven to prevent disease and sustain health and vitality. In April, Algae Industry Magazine published a six-part article series titled “Algae Medical Solutions” in which they highlighted algae as a great resource for health improvement. People who struggle with digestive problems, obesity, or nutrient deficiency can turn to algae to help boost and restore healthy functioning of important organs and body systems by taking algae health supplements. In May, Health Enhancement Products Inc. (HEPI) announced their partnership with ASU’s Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) and the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3). Their partnership plans to provide HEPI with a broader range of scientific expertise by opening access to algae experts and facilities. The company plans to develop natural products derived from algae cultures for use as dietary supplements and food ingredients. Researchers at the University of Arizona also announced plans of contributing toward algae therapeutics by repurposing a Tucson wastewater treatment plant into a fish hatchery and algae omega-3 research facility. Omega-3 is considered to be an essential fatty acid that is rich with health benefits. Omega-3 can be found in both fish and algae. The omega-3 found in fish is actually produced due to the tendency of fish to feed on algae. Algal omega-3 is mercury-free and can be sustainably produced from waste nutrients using energy from sunlight to lower cost. This research could be beneficial to pursuing new research in algae-based therapeutics and foods.   


Slimy green algae might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to beauty products, but believe it or not, algae have true potential in this market. Algae can act as a thickening or water-binding agent that is important to the manufacturing of oil-based cosmetics. Algae also contain many important vitamins and proteins that can be beneficial to the skin. The company Oilgae has presented some interesting facts on the potential for algae for cosmetics. Algae cosmetics that have been researched and developed include algal soaps, algal clay mask, algae beauty serum, algal beauty oil, algal oil/salt scrub, and algal whole cell shampoo and conditioner. ASU spinout company Heliae has also introduced algae into their health and beauty research. Heliae collaborates with leaders in the natural cosmetic fields to produce sustainable ingredients made from algae for their health and beauty product lines. One company that Heliae collaborates with is Spa Technologies which utilizes a variety of different algae strains to create skin care and health care products. Dan Fryda, the founder and president of Spa Technologies, has also written a book on the therapeutic uses of marine algae and seawater and it is due to be released online this Fall.

Air and Water Purification:

Acting as a renewable fuel is not the only way algae benefits our environment. It has also been proven to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere as well as cleaning up wastewater. The Department of Energy reported that microalgal cultures are able to capture up to 45% of available CO2 from a wide variety of simulated flue gases and from actual coal and propane combustion gases. In 2011, ASU partnered with Intel Corporation to research a carbon capture project using algae grown from their factory boiler stack CO2 emissions. Below is a video that provides an informal summary of the project.

Informal, rough cut of summary video for Zero Emission Fabs (ZEF) project from Intel on Youtube.

ASU has also researched and developed the ability for algae to treat wastewater. It started in 2010 when ASU graduate students Josh Wray, Martha Kent, and Emil Puruhito earned an Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative grant. Their innovative plan aimed on providing a business strategy to produce a sustainable organic fertilizer from algae. This initial project then transformed into a proposal for the National Water Research Institute toward developing a new bioreactor design for use in wastewater treatment. The team was awarded $5,000 for two years of research and development of their project. In 2011, the team was additionally awarded the P3 Award from the EPA for their project "Developing Commercially Viable Culture Media from Wastewaters Optimized for the Emerging Microalgae-based Biofuel Industry". The project period took place between August 15, 2011 and August 14, 2012 with a funding amount of $15,000. For more information on these ASU graduate students, check out ASU LightWorks’ blog: LARB Student Worker Reflects Upon EPA Granted Algae Wastewater Project.

From wastewater to renewable energy from ASU Research on Vimeo.


Algae have been a part of a healthy diet for humans and animals for centuries. Researchers at Cornell University are considering algae-based animal feed as a replacement for traditional corn and soybean feed. Algae are rich in protein and have 50 times more oil an acre. Thismeans that manufacturers can use less land and water to produce algae-based animal feed which reduces their carbon footprint and benefits the environment. Algae can also be a sustainable food choice for humans. ASU Professor Mark Edwards has claimed that algae could make a large impact in combating world hunger. As stated earlier, algae have many nutrient and protein-rich properties that can be used as supplements in food. Therefore, Dr. Edwards does not believe that people will just eat algae, but most likely use it as a replacement for fish, fodder, and food ingredients. Developing algae supplements also uses significantly less water and little-to-no fuels or chemical fertilizers in production, which makes it an environmentally responsible choice for our future. Algae can be served for dessert as well! Check out these algae cookies showcased at the AzCATI grand opening.

AzCATI grand opening 098
Algae cookies presented at AzCATI’s grand opening. Photo by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.

Who would have known that pond scum would have the potential to fulfill so many needed markets and solutions? If it were not for research and development of algae technology then all of these innovative ideas would not be known. AzCATI and ATP3 continue to take the forefront of expanding our knowledge of what algae can do. We commend Arizona State University for supporting these brilliant researchers and providing state-of-the-art facilities to explore the multiple facets of utilizing algae for the future.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

The DOD’s clean energy revolution: Highlights from ASU’s Energy and National Security Event

published July 22, 2013, 9:19 am

On June 7, 2013, The Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University hosted the Energy and National Security Event featuring notable leaders and decision-makers of the energy and national security sector. Iraq War veteran and Operation Free supporter Capt. Brett Hunt moderated a panel discussion highlighting the correlation between energy and national security as well as noting important advances in research, technologies, and education opportunities.

The panelists included: Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, who represents Arizona’s 9th Congressional District; Brig. Gen. John Adams (USA, ret.), who has a storied 30-year military career that concluded at NATO; and Lt. Col. Joe Knott (USA, ret.), who served as the National Guard’s Sustainability and Energy program manager before he became a doctoral candidate at ASU's School of Sustainability.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
From left: Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, Brig. Gen. John Adams, Lt. Col. Joe Knott, and moderator Capt. Brett Hunt. Photo retrieved from ASU GIOS online video “Sustainability Series—Energy and National Security

Energy and national security are both key issues being discussed in Washington D.C. but not often do we hear how they correlate with one another. Capt. Brett Hunt began the discussion by asking the panelists how each believes the issue of energy and national security connect. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema stated the reality of America relying heavily on oil from volatile countries addresses both our energy and national security concerns. In other words, as we continue to rely more on foreign oil, the implications of increased national and international security will also be depended upon.  Congresswoman Sinema believes that developing clean energy domestically not only saves us money, “it reduces our dependence on volatile nations and allows us to engage in foreign affairs from a pure perspective of national security and global security instead of one about resource needs”. Brig. Gen. John Adams further explained that the United States needs to make sure our energy sources are under our control because “we do not want our energy sources to be held hostage by our strategic competitors”. He explained that this directly impacts our armed forces because in order for them to provide security for our country, they need to be able to depend on energy sources that are found domestically here in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Defense not only recognizes the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil for national security, but also the affect that it has had in changing the earth’s atmosphere. The DOD is the world's largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels and that poses a national security, economic, and environmental threat if we continue to depend on the global oil market in the years to come. Capt. Hunt asked Lt. Col. Joe Knott about what the military is doing today to work toward resolving this issue. Lt. Col. Knott responded by stating that it starts with education. The military are not experts on greenhouse gasses and different fuels but research institutions, like Arizona State University, are. He highlighted an online ASU GIOS certificate program designed for soldiers and civilians in the U.S. Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve to become educated in the major principles of sustainability science ]. Lt. Col. Knott stated that “academia and industry provides the product to research and development”. Sustainability programs like these are important in order to move in a new direction in which national security and environmental considerations go hand-in-hand.

Furthering investment in game-changing research and technologies was also highlighted in this event. Capt. Hunt asked the panelists about the importance of Congress investing in clean energy development for the DOD. Congresswoman Sinema said that there is a growing recognition that in order for our military to continue being the strongest in the world, “we are going to have to find opportunities to continue efficiency”. She noted the need for Congress to provide assistance in research to develop new technologies in order to increase efficiency. Congresswoman Sinema believes that there is a lot of promise in algae and hydrogen but there needs to be more flexibility in order to fund the research with the most priority. Brig. Gen. Adams agreed with Congresswoman Sinema and stated that the more flexibility there is, the less likely we are to see across the board cutting of renewable energy programs. He gave the example of the US Navy’s goal of converting to biofuels by the year 2020 and explained that the funding for research and development of these technologies will ultimately make or break that goal. Brig. Gen. Adams further noted that although these programs are expensive, the DOD will continue to invest in renewable energy because they know that “advanced technologies give them the edge on the battlefield”.

Watch the entire event below

Sustainability Series - Energy and National Security
from Sustainability @ ASU on Vimeo.

In related news, Kyrsten Sinema recently visited The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), located at ASU's Polytechnic Campus in Mesa, where she toured the facility.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Photo of Dr. Miltion Sommerfeld and Kyrsten Sinema at AzCATI. Photo taken by Sarah Mason, ASU LightWorks.

Below is a tweet sent by Kyrsten Sinema's personal Twitter account following her visit. For more photos visit ASU LightWorks' Flickr photo stream.

The research and development being done at AzCATI is precisely the type of renewable energy investment that would be beneficial to the US Department of Defense. Continuing funding for algae biofuel resource hubs such as AzCATI will help provide a clean fuel for our future fleets. Find out more about what AzCATI is doing by visiting their website.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

ASU-led algae cooperation to host algae workshop

published July 15, 2013, 12:20 pm

The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), housed at the Arizona State Unviersity Polytechnic campus, will help to host the second of ongoing, cutting-edge algae training workshops in August on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus.

Photo by: Arizona State University Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Following a successful inaugural training workshop on the ASU Polytechnic campus in Mesa, the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) will once again open its doors to the algae community for a hands-on, interactive algae workshop. From Aug. 19-23, participants will have a chance to get their hands green as they study Algal Culture Management and Strain Selection.

ATP3 is a network of open testbeds and evaluation facilities which aim to facilitate innovation, empower knowledge creation and accelerate growth of the emergent algal energy industry. In May, ATP3 specialists hosted a full class of algae researchers and scientists from around the globe for the first of many workshops. See what the participants are saying about the workshops in a video here.

“We are excited to spread the wealth of knowledge that ATP3 has as a collaboration,” said Gary Dirks, director of ATP3, ASU LightWorks and the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability.

Workshop modules will include:

• the collection of field samples (bioprospecting)
• measuring culture density and growth rates
• monitoring cultures for contaminants
• analyzing chemical composition of algal biomass

This workshop is designed for participants interested in the practical applications of algae, as well as advanced students and trainees who would like to obtain a comprehensive overview on the laboratory cultivation and analysis of microalgae. 

The training workshops are informal and participants will be encouraged to ask questions, share information with the group and network. Participants will be provided printed and electronic materials, and a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the workshop.

To sign up, visit The program fee is $1,600 and includes training, materials and three lunches.

ATP3 serves as a learning environment for the next generation of scientists, engineers and business leaders to help accelerate the research and development of algae-based technologies. Its open test bed and evaluation facilities are a hub for research and commercialization of algae-based biofuels and other biomass co-products.

ATP3 is funded through a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The partnership is led by the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, which is embedded within the Arizona State University College of Technology and Innovation at the ASU Polytechnic campus with support from industry, academic and national laboratory partners.

To learn more, visit

Sarah Mason,
ASU LightWorks
*Originally posted on ASU News.