USA: Scientists studying algae as source for biofuel

A research team of the United State has changed the E. coli organism to extract sugar which is found in marine algae and turn them into potential source of renewable fuels and chemical, thus opening the possibility of producing maritime biofuel in the future.
Algae generated interest among researchers, as well as the energy industry because their high content of sugar provides a significant quantity of biomass and do not require land to be harvested or water to grow.
The problem until now was that the bacteria do not metabolize immediately main sugar component in the seaweeds known as alginate, what makes the biofuel seafarers to be too expensive order to compete seriously in the market with petroleum-based fuels.
However, through the use of synthetic biology and engineering of enzymes, scientists were able to alter the bacteria E. coli to produce enzymes that digest the sugar polymer present at the seaweed.
The advances obtained by scientists from the laboratory Bio Architecture (BAL) – private company based in Berkeley, California – where there are four creations of marine algae, indicates the January 20th edition of Science magazine.
The altered bacteria also produce proteins which carry degraded sugar and contain metabolic routes that ferment sugars ethanol, a renewable fuel source. The authors point out that if this process can be performed successfully on a large scale, the seaweed could help satisfy the growing demand for biofuel.
“Our scientists developed an enzyme to degrading and metabolizing the alginate, which enables us to utilize the main sugars of algae, which makes her biomass raw material for renewable production of fuels and chemicals,” said Daniel Trunfio, Executive Director from BAL.
The specialists point out that less than 3% of the coastal waters can produce seaweed able to replace more than 60 million gallons of fossil fuels that are used, but algae is now cultivated on a commercial scale.

Source: Terra
Click here to read the complete version (Portuguese) of this article published at Biomassa&Bioenergia
Translated by Gilberto Silber Schmidt
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