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Thursday Complexity PostAugust 1, 2013

Delicious Pastry on the Way to Clean Fuel


When Jonathan S. Wolfson and Harrison F. Dillon founded Solazyme in 2003 they wanted to develop a biofuel that could replace petroleum without disrupting food crops and furthering deforestation. Their focus was algae. Surprisingly, their discoveries are now producing oils that are a healthy substitute for butter and eggs and useful in cosmetics and soaps.


Green algae can look silky, hairy or like wet fabric on the rocks, plants or water surface, but do not produce harmful toxins.
(Photo: Pieter Bridge)


In a story about Solazyme, Scientific American writer David Biello attests that a brioche made with algalin, the company's name for the innovative oil, is delicious evidence that eating algae is a good idea. Brioche is the buttery light-textured French bun that is part bread and part cake. The Solazyme website declares that its algae based food ingredients can replace butter, eggs and vegetable oil for tasty products that have lower calories, cholesterol, no trans-fats, and ultimately lower cost. Sales of algal flour are expected soon. Wolfson and Solazyme are among the Forbes magazine Top Disruptors of 2013.


Food and cosmetics are a sharp change of direction for a company that set out to make biofuel. Solazyme has diversified even beyond food, making algae based anti-aging skin creams, cometics, soaps, and fiber for digestive health. As friends at Emory University in Atlanta, Wolfson and Dillon, now in their 40s, dreamed of saving the environment. They haven't given up on their goal of renewable energy from nonfood plants, and they hope their algae oils and powders will eventually pave the way to sustainable fuel.


The possibility of algae as fuel was first explored at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory under the direction of President Jimmy Carter in 1978 when gas prices skyrocketed and motorists were enduring long lines at the pump. Replacement fuels have proved a challenge for scientists and entrepreneurs. Ethanol based fuels have resulted in higher food prices as corn replaced food crops, and environmentalists have called palm oil an agricultural blight. Palm oil production has led to deforestation in Indonesia, Asia, Africa and parts of Central and South America. A New York Times story by Diane Cardwell tells how Solazyme and other companies have experiment with algae technology. Watch CNN video of scientist Glen Kertz explaining his Vertigro system for turning algae into fuel. The  How Stuff Works website explains the process. Cardwell writes that the federal Energy Department predicts research using organisms such as yeast and bacteria to replace conventional gasoline won't be commercially viable until 2017, and that algae based fuels may not be viable until 2022. While consumption of fuel from renewable sources has been increasing, it accounts for only nine percent of the total, according to government reports.


The problem is scaling. The Solazyme website says the company delivered 80,000 liters of algae based diesel and jet fuel to the U.S. Navy in 2010 and has a Defense Department contract for more. But producers of commercially viable replacement fuels for cars, trucks and aircraft need to make so called "drop in fuel"- fuel that wouldn't require any new equipment or changes to engines- and they need to make a lot of it. Solazyme is one of the companies still persevering with that goal.  

Kindle edition now available!
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Inviting Everyone: Healing Healthcare through Positive Deviance
by Curt Lindberg, Prucia Buscell, and Arvind Singhal
Kindle Edition ~ Release Date: 2013-07-26
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Remember PlexusCalls!


Friday, August 9, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET  
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How Our Schools Can Inspire Emergence of Community Builders  
Guests: Ward Mailliard and Lisa Kimball   

Ward Mailliard is one of the founders of the Mount Madonna Center in Watsonville,  CA, and a member of the executive board of the Mount Madonna School, which educates children from pre-school through high school. An educator for more than 25 years, Mailliard helped create the "Values in World Thought" curriculum, which includes taking students to interview government and non-government leaders in Washington DC and other countries. Read his complete bio.


Lisa Kimball, PhD--In addition to serving on the Board, Lisa served as Plexus' President for 3 years. She continues to serve Plexus as Chair, Learning Programs. She is an entrepreneur with more than 30 years experience as an organizational consultant with business, government and non profit organizations. She earned her doctorate in educational psychology, cognition and learning conducting research on how senior executives use system thinking. Read her complete bio


Healthcare PlexusCalls 
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET  
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Robot + Cooperation Between Hospitals = Better Care for Stroke Patients  
Guest: Dean Gushee     

When someone has a stroke, time is of the essence. Faster diagnosis and immediate treatment can often reduce or eliminate the debilitating effects of a stroke. At Mason General Hospital, a community hospital in southwest Washington State, emergency-room physicians are board-certified in emergency medicine, and trained in stroke diagnosis and treatment. And thanks to St. Peter Hospital, twenty minutes away, there is now a neurologist in the room when needed 24/7, via two-way video and a remote telehealth robot. Dean Gushee, medical director for the emergency department and medical director for the hospital, will join the call to talk about the resources that provide better care for stroke patients-and the cultural changes that were needed to allow separate hospitals, with differing policies and practices, to learn to work together. Read his complete bio.


Visit the Plexus Institute Calendar for a detailed schedule of PlexusCalls, Healthcare PlexusCalls, Nursing Network PlexusCalls and other upcoming events from Plexus Institute and others.  


Audio from all PlexusCall series are available by searching the iTunes store for plexuscalls. Or, visit under Resources/Call Series. 


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