‘Super-Algae’ Identified by Scottish Scientists for Biofuel Production

Dr Stephen SlocombeThe researchers of Scottish Association for Marine Science spotted the ‘Super-algae, which, they believe, would be useful for the production of bio-fuels for two-wheelers, automobiles, and aircrafts.

A team of scientists from SAMS (Scottish Association for Marine Science), with an aim to identify the ocean-based algae strains that are highly rich in oil content, conducted a series of experiments on the microalgae strains using a newly devised technique. They explored the SAMS based Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa (CCAP), one of the world’s prominent algal stores. The study unlocked two marine algal strains, Nannochloropis oceanica and Chlorella vulgaris, both which prove to be ideal sources of biofuels with their dry-weight oil content of more than 50%, and high efficiency in converting nutrients.

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As algae are easy to grow, require low maintenance, and are very abundant aqueous life forms that use solar energy to perform photosynthesis, scientists believe that they could become the sources of third generation biofuels while sugar, starch, vegetable oil and animal fat are considered as sources of first generation biofuels, and the non-food crops are considered as sources for the second generation of biofuels.

The results of the experiment, which constitute a part of the BioMara Project – that aims to develop third generation biofuels from marine biomass, have been published in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports.

Dr Stephen Slocombe, the report’s lead author and SAMS research associate in molecular biology, said: “In order to produce biofuels from microalgae we will have to generate high yields so we need to know which strains will produce the most oil.” he also added, “While there is a lot of work being done on microalgae biotechnology – currently around 10,000 researchers across the world – no-one has identified a shortlist of the best-performing strains and how their properties could be used,”, MercoPress reports.

Another researcher, Dr Michele Stanley, the Centre Lead for Marine Biotechnology at SAMS, said: “There has been a great deal of interest in the last few years surrounding biofuels from microalgae linked to a very limited number of species. This research generated by the BioMara project not only highlights the potential of marine algae as sources of biofuels but also for a wider set of biotechnology applications.”

Dr. Slocombe also says: “This work paves the way for large-scale trials of these strains to uncover their true biotechnological utility in the years to come.”

The scientists are yet to choose the best strains, in terms of oil content and productivity, among the shortlisted micro-algae, genetically engineer and mass culture them commercially, harvest and extract oil. The report spots algal strains not only for biofuels, but also for various food sources, Omega-3 oils, and aquaculture feed.

Image©: Mercopress, Slideshare, U.S. Department of Energy (cropped)

 

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