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Industry and academics merge at new USU algae facility

The Algae Processing and Products Facility
Katie White
USU Algae Processing and Products Facility

The Algae Processing and Products Facility is a part of USU's Sustainable Waste to Bioproducts Engineering Center, otherwise known as SWBEC. Professor Ron Sims is the project’s principal investigator.

"SWBEC is involved in scaling up from the laboratory industrial size processes to connect industry and academics," said Sims.

The facility is working with WesTech Engineering and the Central Valley Water Reclamation Center, to innovate wastewater treatment using algae.

Vice president of research, Lisa Berreau, offered words of encouragement to students and faculty at the grand opening on April 20th.

"Congratulations Ron on this wonderful facility. Congratulations to all who contributed to it. And for the students I just say, I’m so excited for the types of experiments that you’re going to be able to do here and what it will mean for the future and applications of algae," said Berreau.

For Jagath Kaluarachchithi, dean of the USU engineering department, this facility means greater opportunities for the department.

"I’m so happy, Ron, because I know you are a very collaborate-y person. I’m sure there will be opportunities for other people to come and do fieldwork. So, a great addition to our research in terms of facilities," said Jagath Kaluarachchi.

According to Sims, collaboration is key to advancing their work. Other partners include USUs math department and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

"We’re pushing collaboration because we like it, because we can do more with it, because we can get farther down the road with it," said Sims.

Beyond wastewater treatment, SWBEC hopes to convert harvested algae into bioproducts that could lead to greater sustainability and promote energy independence.

Katie White has been fascinated by a multitude of subjects all her life. At 13-years-old Katie realized she couldn't grow up to be everything — a doctor-architect-anthropologist-dancer-teacher-etc. — but she could tell stories about everything. Passionate about ethical and informed reporting, Katie is studying both journalism and sociology at Utah State University.