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Japanese research institute receives funding for algae harvesting biofuel project

The Research Institute of Tsukuba Bio-tech has received funding from the Japanese government for its ambitious algae biofuels programme.

The grant from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), alongside funding from various private investors, will enable the construction of one-acre sites for the production of biofuel and toxic remediation using algae. Algae harvesting technology developed by OriginOil will be used for the programme. “It is our intention that more than a hundred algae production sites in Japan will include OriginOil technology,” said Dr Takaaki Maekawa, President of the research institute, who announced the funding news.

The Japanese government has made the development of renewable energy a top priority following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. Its Fiscal Year 2013 budget has allocated “limitless reconstruction expenses”, OriginOil notes. “Algae production has the potential to both provide renewable fuels and help eliminate radioactive materials from contaminated lands,” it says.

Numerous studies have shown that algae has the potential to absorb radioactive cesium, which can cause radiation sickness and death, the company explains. In one such test conducted by the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), just one strain of microalgae managed to remove almost 90% of radioactive material from cesium-contaminated water.

Written by Robin Whitlock

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