Bioenergy Technologies Office


The U.S. Department of Energy AlgaePrize 2022-2023

The AlgaePrize is a national algal-based competition that challenges students to become the next generation of bioeconomy professionals.

This challenge is closed

Submission Deadline

This challenge is closed


Challenge Overview

Welcome to the U.S. Department of Energy AlgaePrize!

The AlgaePrize, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office and supported by The Algae Foundation and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), challenges students to become the next generation of bioeconomy professionals by expanding novel solutions to production, processing, and new product development on the way to gigaton-scale algae commercialization for fuel, food, products, and carbon dioxide utilization/sequestration.  

Student teams competing in the AlgaePrize will range from high school through graduate programs. The competition will last 18 months. The AlgaePrize will assist in establishing the competitors as serious candidates for the next generation of bioeconomy positions and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Competitors will prepare creative solutions for real-world issues in the algae value chain. Students will compete to earn prize money and national recognition.

The three areas of interest for the AlgaePrize include both microalgae and macroalgae. Student teams should focus their project on one of the following areas of interest: 

  • Production
  • Downstream Processing
  • Novel Products or Analytical Tools

This competition will award two separate rounds of prizes:

  • Research Synopsis Prize: The first stage of judging will result in up to 15 student teams being selected as AlgaePrize Finalists. Each finalist team will be awarded $5,000.
  • Final Awards: Finalist teams will present their research at the AlgaePrize Competition Event. The five top student teams will be selected as AlgaePrize winners. Each winning team will be awarded a $10,000 prize. The five winning teams will then present their research to a final panel of judges. These judges will select a single Grand Champion and award the Grand Champion an additional $5,000 grand prize.

The winning teams as well as the Grand Champion will be invited to participate in the Algae Biomass Summit in the Fall of 2023 to present their research and network with Summit participants from the national and international algae community.


The Official Rules Document provides a framework for research work, submissions, and judging evaluation.

Please see the 2022–2023 AlgaePrize Rules.


Challenge Guidelines

The Official Rules Document provides a framework for research work, submissions, and judging evaluation.

Please see the 2022–2023 AlgaePrize Rules.*


Products made from algae are the natural solution to the energy, food, economic, and climate challenges facing our world today. Algae have the power to simultaneously put fuels in our vehicles, recycle carbon dioxide, provide nutrition for animals and humans, and create jobs for millions of Americans.


Competitors will learn about the algae industry and will go on to support the nation’s biofuel research, algal commercial enhancement, and promote industry-driven education, training, and workforce development.

Student competitors will:

  • Gain experience with innovative algal commercialization technologies
  • Develop real-world solutions that shape the global future of algae by producing biofuels, biofoods, biofeeds, and industrial compounds (e.g., biopolymers)
  • Develop collaborative and leadership skills by working on multidisciplinary student teams
  • Engage and network with industry professionals, national lab researchers, and academics to forge relationships and connections that aid students’ transition to the algal-based bioeconomy employment or entrepreneurial endeavors upon graduation
  • Compete to earn prize money and national recognition.


The Official Rules Document provides a framework for research work, submissions, and judging evaluation.

Please see the 2022–2023 AlgaePrize Rules.

Competitors will prepare creative solutions for real-world issues in the algae value chain. Qualifying teams will complete a research project and attend the AlgaePrize Competition Event (pandemic permitting) where teams: 

  • Present their research to panels of judges
  • Compare their projects to those of other teams
  • Tour the NREL facilities
  • Engage with a variety of organizations about careers related to algae technology, cultivation, and market development.

Road to Success

  • Registration: Students are encouraged to form student teams, consider the competition’s three algae research areas of interest and select one, and develop an innovative and novel research project within that area. Register prior to the deadline with your team’s abstract.
  • Submission: During this step your team should complete your team’s full research synopsis and take a team photo and submit both of these items by the deadline.
  • Assessment: All teams’ Research Synopses will be reviewed and scored by a panel of judges, based on the review criteria. The week following the deadline for submitting research synopses, a panel of judges will assess and score the synopses based on the review criteria. At the conclusion of the assessment, the panel of judges will select up to fifteen finalist teams to participate in the competition.
  • Announcement: All teams will be notified of the selections and each winning team will be awarded $5,000 to assist with their research effort.
  • Research and Updates: After selection and announcement of the winning finalist teams, the teams will have the next year to complete their proposed research projects and include three five-page research updates throughout the competition year.
  • AlgaePrize Competition Weekend: The finalist teams are expected to participate in the AlgaePrize competition event, the AlgaePrize Weekend. The event will be held virtually, if necessary due to pandemic considerations or restrictions, or in-person at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. Over the course of the AlgaePrize Weekend, the finalist teams will participate in event activities including presenting their research projects to a panel of judges. The judges will select and announce the top five research teams as the competition winners. These five teams will then present to a final panel of judges. Following a 10-minute question and answer session with the final panel of judges, a Grand Champion will be selected!


The AlgaePrize invites participation of teams composed of at least two student members enrolled in a U.S.-based educational institution (high school, accredited community college, college, university and/or graduate school). Students must be enrolled in at least one class and must be pursuing a degree or diploma at the time a student joins a team. Teams with students from multiple educational institutions are allowed, and multiple teams from the same educational institution are allowed. However, individual students may be members of only one team.

Student participation may be integrated into a senior project or thesis, count as elective or independent study course credit, be added to the curriculum of existing classes, treated as a seminar topic, engaged in as part of a student interest club, or be an extracurricular student activity.

Each team must have a faculty advisor employed by a U.S.-based educational institution to provide input, guidance, and support. Judges, competition organizers, federal employees, and national laboratory employees are not eligible to compete in the competition. Immediate family members of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Algae Foundation, and NREL employees are not eligible to compete in the competition.

High School Competitors: Student teams composed of all high school students under the age of 18  must have their faculty advisor register the team on HeroX. Each high school may support more than one team. High school students may not be on multiple teams.




*All required rules are documented in the 2022–2023 AlgaePrize Rules.