Research

AgriLife Research

A team of researchers that has been working on getting fuel-grade oil out of algae has received a $2 million National Science Foundation grant to help hasten the process, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research biochemist and collaborator on the project. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Texas A&M Scientists Funded to Speed up B. brauni

September 17, 2012
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Ateam of researchers at Texas A&M has received a $2 million National Science Foundation grant to help speed up the process getting fuel-grade oil out of algae from the oil-rich alga, Botryococcus braunii.

Known by scientists for more than 100 years, B. braunii is the shirker of the algae world, seemingly floating aimlessly in bubbling tanks of water in no hurry to grow up and be pressed into oil. Other algae go through life as self-starters on a fast-track to success but don’t produce oil like B. braunii. The researchers want the useful traits from each to commingle.

“We’re interested in taking the genetic information out of the slow-growing alga – the genetic information for producing the hydrocarbons – and transferring that into a faster growing alga,” said Dr. Tim Devarenne, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research biochemist and collaborator on the project. “Then maybe we can more economically produce these oils.”

For his part of the study, Devarenne will study the B. braunii’s molecular biology to find out what genes are responsible for production of the oil. His lab will also try to understand the function of those genes and how they contribute to the production of the oil. “By understanding the molecular mechanisms, we can maybe manipulate the algae to produce more or better oil,” he said.

Another key aspect to these studies is encouraging B. braunii to live life in the fast lane, Devarenne explained, using a device invented by Dr. Arum Han, lead researcher on the project and a professor of electrical engineering at Texas A&M University. Called a “microfluidic lab-on chip,” the device is about the size of a business card but has hundreds to thousands of microscopic wells, Devarenne said.

“These little wells can each hold an individual alga cell, and we can treat each well differently in terms of media compositions or light amounts, for example,” he explained. “So we can see how different parameters affect growth rate, oil production and biomass accumulation.

“In that little microfluidic device, we can screen hundreds to thousands of different growth conditions at once and do in a week’s time what in a normal lab atmosphere would take probably a year to screen. Essentially we can miniaturize everything and screen high volumes of algae to find optimal growth conditions to make the best amount of oil,” Devarenne said.

When the fast-growing traits have been combined with the hydrocarbon-producing capabilities in one alga, team member Dr. Tzachi Samocha with AgriLife Research in Corpus Christi will help determine how to grow it on a large scale.

Upon completion of those studies, Devarenne said, the team may work with the fuel industry to scale up production even farther.“If we can produce an alga that produces high amounts of oil and grows fast,” he said, “an industry partner could grow large amounts of it, extract the oil, convert that oil into gasoline or diesel fuel and sell it just like at a normal gasoline pump.”

Also collaborating on the project are Dr. David Stern from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and Dr. Jefferson Tester from Cornell University.

–Kathleen Phillips, ka-phillips@tamu.edu

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2012 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) released the following statement calling on the EPA to include Carbon Capture and Utilization strategies in rules proposed June 2, 20...
A new, outdoor system at the University of Dayton Research Institute has been producing a high volume of algae since its installation in the summer of 2013, even through ...
Gilbert, AZ-based Heliae has announced a partnership with Sincere Corporation, a Japanese waste management and recycling company, to form a joint venture and develop a co...
Algae manufacturer Cyanotech Corporation has announced implementing three major initiatives to improve Astaxanthin production at their Kailua Kona, Hawaii-based cultivati...
Steven Mufson reports for the Washington Post that Algenol Biofuels estimates hackers have attempted to break into its computers 39 million times in four months this year...
A recent discovery in the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri,has revealed the origin of male and female sexes, showing how they evolved from a more primitive mating...
Biofuels derived from the oils produced by algae may offer a low-cost sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. To achieve this goal, optimization of cost effective strate...
Matthew Carr was recently named executive director of the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), the leading trade association for the algae industry. His presence will soon b...
Channelnewsasia.com reports on three young Spaniards who harvest seaweed, a culinary delicacy, as a way for them to stay out of Spain’s troubled financial waters. 35-year...
Expanding from its initial work in algal biofuels, General Atomic’s (GA’s) Advanced Biological Processes team has focused on the rising need for food globally, specifical...
Researchers at the Paul Scherer Institute (PSI) in Wädenswil, Switzerland, have succeeded in producing energy-rich gas from microalgae, and in doing so have demonstrated ...
James “Jamie” Levine took over the reigns at Sapphire Energy in July of this year as former President and CEO Cynthia “CJ” Warner stepped down, retaining her role as chai...
With their new CO₂ processing-platform called AstaCos, AlgaeBiotech can produce waxy particles of only 50-100 µm in size with a loading of 25% astaxanthin oleoresin. The ...
Algix, parent company of Solaplast, will be inaugurating their algae-to-plastic facility in Meridian, Mississippi, on November 14, 2014. Solaplast's facility will be focu...
MicroBio Engineering, Inc., of San Luis Obispo, California, has introduced a full suite of open pond microalgae growth systems designed for quick deployment of research- ...
Renewable fuels company Muradel has launched Australia’s first integrated demonstration plant to sustainably convert algae into green crude, as a first step towards a com...
Solazyme, Inc. and Versalis, the chemical subsidiary of Eni S.p.A., one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, today announced a partnership to expand the commerci...
William Tucker writes in fullfreedom.org about the lure the oceans have for advocates of biofuel, particularly in Scandinavia. “Two-thirds of the globe is covered with wa...