New Biofuels from the Microbial Life of the Great Salt Lake

2009 Bingham Proposal

Tim Herzog, Chemistry
Mohammad Sondossi, Microbiology
John Kelly, Automotive Technology

The development of economically viable and environmentally benign alternative energy sources is one of the most important challenges facing our nation and world today. We feel that the state of Utah is uniquely positioned to contribute to this important goal and we want Weber State University to be among the leaders in developing this technology. Many of the current sources of alternative fuels such as corn based ethanol and seed oil based biodiesel compete directly with food sources providing both an ethical and a practical dilemma to large scale implementation. We believe that marine photosynthetic organisms are a much better platform upon which to build this technology. We live in an area with abundant sunshine and are situated at the edge of the Great Salt Lake which is home to diverse populations of rugged, salt tolerant photosynthetic organisms. Our goal is to produce biomass from these organisms in order to study their biology and chemistry. This biomass will be processed to produce new biofuels. We see this as a great opportunity to engage undergraduate students in a very current and important area of research.

Our research team is composed of a chemist, a microbiologist, and an automotive expert. We feel that bringing these 3 disciplines together helps us understand the problem from a much deeper and broader perspective. Tim Herzog has a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and 8 years industrial experience in the development of new catalysts for industrial processes. Mohammad Sondossi has a PhD in microbiology and has significant expertise in the growth and study of organisms from the Great Salt Lake. Finally, John Kelly is the chair of the Automotive Technology Department at WSU and brings the knowledge and equipment to test new fuels in a real world environment. All three of our departments have made significant capital investments in recent years to provide us with much of the equipment and instrumentation required to carry out this research.

Click here for the full proposal.