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article imageAlgae engineered to create richer biofuels

By Tim Sandle     Apr 18, 2013 in Science
Chemists based at the University of California, Davis, have found several compounds that can boost oil production by green microscopic algae, a potential source of biodiesel.
The search for new and novel ways to create biofuels is an area that is receiving considerable scientific attention and research funding (as the Digital Journal has previously reported). One area of research is into algae.
Microalgae are single-celled organisms and they can play a role in the production of biofuels, in breaking down complex plant material into oils, which can then be used to produce biodiesel.
When certain algae live in saltwater, they take sunlight and carbon dioxide as a building block, and make these long chains of oil that can be converted to biodiesel. To find more efficient ways for this to happen, scientists based at the University of California, Davis, screened 83 compounds for their effects on growth and oil production in four strains of microalgae. They identified several that could boost oil production significantly. The substances included epigallocatechin gallate, found in green tea, and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a common food preservative.
From the process, after the oils have been extracted from the algae, the remaining mass can be processed for animal feed or other uses.
The findings have been published in the journal Chemical Biology. The article is titled “Phenotypic Screening with Oleaginous Microalgae Reveals Modulators of Lipid Productivity”.
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