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
By sending algae into space, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his team will be able to study some of the key mechanisms that control plant growth and...
Jamie Radford writes in the Illawarra Mercury that Pia Winberg, from the University of Wollongong, believes that the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia (NSW) is in...
Algae Industry Magazine is pleased to announce a new Algae 101 series by our popular blogger, Mark Edwards, Professor, Arizona State University. The Algae Solutions to Na...
Starting in the early 70s, agencies in the former USSR invested more than 20,000 person-years of research and development to produce Bio-Algae Concentrates (BAC) that hel...
Perth, Western Australia-based Algae.Tec Limited has announced that the Reliance Group has converted the first tranche of options following the positive progress achieved...
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...
Phys.Org reports that scientists Jolanda Verspagen and Jef Huisman of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands have concluded that rising CO2 concentrations in the at...
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...
Portuguese cement facility, Secil, and microalgae biotechnology company, A4F, also based in Portugal, have formed AlgaFarm, a joint venture to develop the use of cement f...
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 ...
SCHOTT AG, of Mitterteich, Germany, and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), based at Israel’s Kibbutz Ketura, have signed an R&D agreement to strengthen their partnersh...
Biplab Das reports in NatureAsia.com that a research team has found aqueous extracts of the marine brown algae Lobophoro variegate that can inhibit the replication of hum...
U.S. farmers and biofuels makers are watching for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final decision on the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard rules, which will set t...
A team of Michigan State University algae researchers have discovered a cellular "snooze button" that has the potential to improve biofuel production and offer ...
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...
Hortidaily.com reports that in Nevele, Belgium, Tomalgae is growing algae in a former tomato greenhouse. Their company was formed when tomato cultivation entrepreneurs Pi...
Iran-based Qeshm Microalgae Biorefinery Co. (QMAB) has launched a biofuel being marketed as BAYA®, produced from a species of Nannochloropsis (strain 6016) isolated from ...
Most Americans get plenty of protein, primarily from animal products including meat, eggs and milk. But for many, ensuring a healthy protein intake can be challenging. In...