Spring, 2011 semester: so much happening!

The Spring 2011 semester marks the beginning of a new era for the Lone Star College Biotechnology Institute (LSCBI).  We have now opened our BRAND NEW facilities, which are part of the 60,000 square foot expansion of Building B.  This beautiful new facility features an expanded lab, prep area, equipment room, chemical storage room, and cell culture facility.  In addition, we have beautiful new office space.  Please feel free to come by for a tour and/or visit!

Here are a few of the exciting developments we can look forward to in 2011:

The algae project is progressing nicely and some new and exciting developments have emerged there as well.  We will be building a greenhouse that will be home to our second commercial scale photobioreactor (PBR).  Once those are constructed, we will be able to compare algal growth in PBRs in outdoor versus greenhouse environments.

Lone Star College-Cy Fair is debuting a Petroleum Technology program.  Their faculty and staff will be visiting LSC-Montgomery to help us install and operate the remote sensing equipment that was donated by Yokogawa Corporation.  This equipment will provide real time data feeds on culture conditions and will allow us to monitor such things as pH, dissolved O2, and conductivity in both the outdoor and greenhouse PBRs.

The LSCBI is getting involved with a National Science Foundation planning grant that could lead to the development of a national center of alternative energy education.  Lone Star College would be the biofuels hub within this center, with Austin Community College focusing on solar energy and Texas State Technical College focusing on wind.

Dr. Larry’s biodiesel group is making excellent progress and should be scaling up their production soon.  Our biodiesel processing equipment can produce 80 gallons of biodiesel at a time.  If they can get enough oil, the sky is the limit for this on campus biofuel refinery!  A brand new diesel generator will be used to help test the diesel quality and, possibly, be used to power some of the operations in the algae production center!

Finally, a grant from the State Energy Conservation Office will bring microbial fuel cell technology to the LSCBI!  What is a microbial fuel cell you may ask?  In short, it is a device in which microorganisms (usually bacteria, but potentially algae!) are used as biological sources of hydrogen, which then can be used as a fuel to drive electricity production.  We are at the very early stages of this project, but hope to make some progress, generate some interest, and develop some educational materials centered around this novel technology.

I have only just barely scratched the surface with what is happening with LSCBI in 2011.  Come back and read this blog for further updates!  Better yet, stop by and experience some of the excitement first hand!