Turning algae into fuel

Blue-green in colour, slimy and present in seas and fresh water worldwide – the presence of microalgae is not generally met with great excitement. But this may be about to change. A team of European scientists is on a mission…

Blue-green in colour, slimy and present in seas and fresh water worldwide – the presence of microalgae is not generally met with great excitement. But this may be about to change. A team of European scientists is on a mission to prove that microalgae can be used to produce bioethanol as a biofuel for less than EUR 0.40 a litre.

The EU-funded project DEMA (‘Direct Ethanol from MicroAlgae’) is focusing on cyanobacteria – a microalgae found in almost every terrestrial and aquatic habitat, including in oceans, lakes and damp soil, and on rocks. They obtain their energy via photosynthesis.

The research team is seeking to improve biofuel production at two levels. First, the team will introduce the capacity to produce ethanol through metabolic engineering – by altering the chemical reactions that occur within its cells so that they can produce bioethanol effectively.

The bioethanol will then be secreted by the algae and filtered from the medium through a membrane.
The DEMA team will develop and demonstrate the technology, and is confident that the process, once fine-tuned, will be superior to any other put forward so far in scientific literature.

Biofuels have the potential to significantly reduce transport’s output of carbon and reduce its impact on climate change. Using microalgae to produce biofuels has many advantages over other forms of biomass: it occurs naturally and grows quickly, and as it does not grow on land, it does not compete with food crops.
The project brings together nine partners from both academia and industry from six EU countries. It is coordinated by the University of Limerick in Ireland and has received almost EUR 5 million from the EU under the energy strand of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The project started work in December 2012 and completes its work in May 2017.

Explore further:

Researchers design photobioreactor to produce biofuel from algae

More information: Project factsheet cordis.europa.eu/projects/rcn/106280_en.html

Provided by

CORDIS

view popular

3 /5 (2 votes)

Related Stories

Researchers design photobioreactor to produce biofuel from algae

May 27, 2013

Researchers at the University of Alicante have patented a new device that allows more efficiently to cultivate microalgae and can be used as raw material for biofuel or for other valuable substances in the …

Cultivation of algae, mussels, common reed and microbes could help to improve the Baltic Sea’s condition

Sep 03, 2013

The Finnish Environment Institute SYKE has participated in the SUBMARINER project, jointly performed by eight countries in order to investigate new ways of utilising the Baltic Sea’s resources. Over three …

Research reveals potential for producing liquid fuels using microalgae

Jan 08, 2013

(Phys.org)—Due to continuing high demand, depletion of non-renewable resources and increasing concerns about climate change, fossil fuel-derived transportation fuels face constant challenges from both a …

Microalgae could be a profitable source of biodiesel

Mar 21, 2013

Researchers at the UAB’s Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), have analysed the potential of different species of microalgae for producing biodiesel, …

Can algae-derived oils support large-scale, low-cost biofuels production?

Dec 12, 2012

ExxonMobil and many other energy companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to develop transportation biofuels from renewable resources such as the oil or hydrocarbons produced by microalgae. …

Study finds algal cells create fat more quickly than thought, could aid biofuel research

Aug 30, 2013

(Phys.org) —Many scientists see great promise in algae as a new source of oil—a sustainable, environmentally sound way to break the world’s fossil fuel dependence.

Recommended for you

Leading plant database goes subscription

13 hours ago

The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR), a database of genetic and molecular biology data for the laboratory plant Arabidopsis thaliana, is one of the most widely used plant databases in the world. Some …

Scientists encounter holes in tree of life, push for better data storage

Sep 03, 2013

When it comes to public access, the tree of life has holes. A new study co-authored by University of Florida researchers shows about 70 percent of published genetic sequence comparisons are not publicly accessible, leaving …

New method for turning genes on and off could enable more complex synthetic biology circuits

Sep 03, 2013

MIT researchers have shown that they can turn genes on or off inside yeast and human cells by controlling when DNA is copied into messenger RNA—an advance that could allow scientists to better understand …

Scientists sequence genome of high-value grape, seek secrets of wine’s aroma

Sep 02, 2013

Demystifying the chemical processes that create a wine’s aroma, and the invaluable potential application of that understanding in winemaking, is the new objective of scientists in Uruguay who, with European …

Mycobacterium tuberculosis: Our African follower for over 70,000 years

Sep 01, 2013

Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of deadliest infectious diseases of humans, killing 50% of individuals when left untreated. Even today, TB causes 1-2 million deaths every year mainly in developing countries. …

Source of GMO wheat in Oregon remains mystery (Update)

Aug 30, 2013

Oregon farmers are moving ahead with plans to start planting their next crop as questions remain about the source of a patch of genetically modified wheat in a farmer’s field last spring that threatened trade between the …

User comments : 0

More news stories

Scientists uncover genetic similarities between bats and dolphins

The evolution of similar traits in different species, a process known as convergent evolution, is widespread not only at the physical level, but also at the genetic level, according to new research led by …

Hibernating lemurs hint at the secrets of sleep

By studying hibernation, a Duke University team is providing a window into why humans sleep. Observations of a little-known primate called the fat-tailed dwarf lemur in captivity and the wild has revealed …

Protein lifetime and the stability of cell structures

(Phys.org) —The ability of a cell to move, replicate, and recast itself according to the needs of the organism which it serves, comes at it price. The extreme flexibility of cells takes its origin from …

Field study shows titi monkeys convey both location and predator type with vocal alarms

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers from the U.K. and Brazil has found that black-fronted titi monkeys are able to convey two types of information in their vocal alarms: location and predator type. As the …

Personality interactions between animals may dictate outcomes in the wild

Examining the varying personality types of multiple animal species at once—in addition to common single-species studies—could help biologists better predict ecological outcomes, according to a recent University of Pittsburgh …

New low-temperature chemical reaction explained

In all the centuries that humans have studied chemical reactions, just 36 basic types of reactions have been found. Now, thanks to the work of researchers at MIT and the University of Minnesota, a 37th type …

New approach enhances quantum-based secure communication

University of Calgary scientists have overcome an ‘Achilles’ heel’ of quantum-based secure communication systems, using a new approach that works in the real world to safeguard secrets.

Psychologist discovers intricacies about lying

What happens when you tell a lie? Set aside your ethical concerns for a moment—after all, lying is a habit we practice with astonishing dexterity and frequency, whether we realize it or not. What goes on in your brain when …

Samsung unveils smartwatch ahead of rival Apple

Samsung unveiled its highly anticipated digital wristwatch Wednesday, beating Apple to what could become this year’s must-have holiday gift item.

Look at what I’m saying: Engineers show brain depends on vision to hear

University of Utah bioengineers discovered our understanding of language may depend more heavily on vision than previously thought: under the right conditions, what you see can override what you hear. These …