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Gross-Wen Technologies receives $2M grant for new algae partner project

Gross-Wen Technologies uses its patented wastewater treatment technology, known as the revolving algal biofilm system (RAB), to cost-effectively recover nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater.

AMES, Iowa – Gross-Wen Technologies (GWT), founded by two Iowa State University (ISU) professors, has announced a new partnership with University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Algix to develop carbon-sequestering molecular films to capture carbon dioxide with algae. This new partnership was awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Earlier in the summer of 2020, the company was also awarded a grant of $240,000 from the DOE to develop the next generation of their algal wastewater treatment process to improve phosphorous removal from wastewater.

The project utilizes GWT’s existing Revolving Algal Biofilm (RAB) system which removes nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants from wastewater, while producing algae biomass from waste nutrients and carbon dioxide captured from the air.

Dr. Karsten Zengler, who leads the project for UCSD, and Dr. Michael Guarnieri of NREL are working together to study, model and modify the genome of the fast-growing algae, P. renovo. The primary target is to modify the algae to increase its productivity when grown on GWT’s patented algae growing system. The team is also working to create modified molecular films which will result in the capture of 20 percent more carbon dioxide than conventional systems.

The project also plans to increase the revenue potential for algal biomass. The algae grown in this study will be converted into a sustainable bio-based plastic by Algix.

“This project is bringing together the top minds from around the country in an effort to create a more sustainable and lower carbon future,” GWT Founder Dr. Martin Gross said.

The company, now headquartered in Slater, Iowa, performed much of their early research at the ISU BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF). Other ISU entities including the Startup Factory and the Center for Crops Utilization Research have been a pivotal part of GWT’s growth since they began in 2014.

For ISU, supporting industry research allows for accelerated innovations and commercialization in cutting-edge bioeconomy science and engineering disciplines. GWT’s founders, Dr. Zhiyou Wen and Dr. Martin Gross, also hold faculty positions at ISU.

"One of our primary roles has always been to support ISU faculty to engage industry for economic development in Iowa,” BCRF Assistant Director Andy Suby said. “GWT is an excellent example of talented entrepreneurial ISU faculty making a tangible impact by successfully commercializing technology in this very important emerging market."