This Boeing-sponsored multidisciplinary research project focuses on algae cell biofuel production involving Cal Poly’s Biological Sciences, Food Sciences, Physics, and Electrical Engineering departments. We use pulsed electric fields to lyse (open) algae cells to release lipids for biofuel applications. Lysis involves algae cell membrane rupture to release lipids from within the cells. Algae cell lysis effects are detected through cell counts using a hemocytometer as well as cell size and shape analysis. Size analysis compares cell diameter and circumference before and after lysis. Cell size variation is projected to be a cell lysis determinant.
The current project focuses on developing methods to electrically detect cell lysis. Algae cell electrical parameters (effective capacitance and admittance) vary as a function of lysing state and excitation frequency. An impedance analyzer and titanium-oxide (conductor) coated microscope slide test chambers are utilized in the Physics department (Dr. Jonathan Fernsler's lab) to characterize algae and growth media vs. frequency. The end goal of this research is to couple electrical characteristics with cell shape, optical density (OD), and spectroscopic analysis to optimize energy efficiency in cell lysis and intracellular content extraction.
Algae Culture Lab Setup
West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference, Azusa-Pacific University, 12-Apr-14
Algae Cultures and Hemocytometer (cell count) Images