Algae Genomics for Biofuels
Algae genomics (genomics technology) for biofuels is a new genetic field in the renewable energy area. It can radically change the way how we do algae culture and biofuels production these days.
Algae are an ideal species to undergo genetic modification. Scientists are concentrating huge efforts in creating algal strains that are adaptable to extreme environmental conditions, have better oil and/or starch contents among other features.
For example, one challenge with algae is optimizing harvesting methods for the oil they produce. That means extracting them from their ponds, photo bioreactors or raceways, drying them out and breaking open their cells. This process is monotonous and time consuming.
One way to overcome the oil-collection challenge is applying genetic engineering. Some companies are researching algae that have been modified with genes that create new oil formation pathways through their outer membranes. These may cause the algal cells to expel the feedstock almost as soon as they have manufactured it. It then floats to the surface of the pond, allowing it to be skimmed off like cream and turned into biodiesel.
Algae are also engineered to make more oil than their wild counterparts. Algae Biofuels geneticists are working with a selected number of species and genetically optimizing to have high oil contents. Normally, oil content in algae are as low as 5% as high as 75%. However, oiled algae are slow growing. If fast growing algae (salt and/or freshwater diatoms with high lipids and starch) are fitted with genes that creates higher oil/starch contents, we could reach high productivity as never before. The immediate reflex would be in lowering fuels prices.
Algae genomics for biofuels have the potential to drastically improve algae productivity creating a new era in the Biofuels Industry.