As single-cell organisms with short growth cycles and high energy content, algae are being considered as potential sources of biofuel. Some algal strains can be composed of as lipids and components that are also found in vegetable oils, which means they can be used to produce gasoline and biodiesel for vehicles with a lower carbon footprint. Additionally algae don’t compete for arable land and can be cultivated on fresh water, salt water and even wastewater.
Algae have been studied for their potential in trapping carbon as well as a potential biofuel source.
A tiny green alga, Botryococcus braunii is found worldwide, but most notably in oil and coal shale deposits. Approximately 40 percent of the B. braunii cells is made up of hydrocarbons, and the oil produced can be easily converted and used for vehicle and jet fuels with more than 90 percent efficiency. B. braunii has been studied for several decades not just for its potential as a source of biofuel but for its ability to sequester carbon. There are estimated to be more than 200,000 algal species on earth, but only a handful have been sequenced thus far. The genome of B. braunii var Showa would provide researchers with insights into understanding oil production in this alga, and how the strain might be adapted to produce one kind of fatty acid over another.
Principal Investigators: Andy Koppisch, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Program: CSP 2010