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11/20/2018 / By Zoey Sky
According to a study, which was published in the journal Algal Research, feeding certain algae some plants can produce biofuel for your car.
Data from the study, which involved researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and other partner institutions, revealed that a freshwater production strain of Auxenochlorella protothecoides (A. protothecoides) can degrade and use non-food plant substrates (e.g. switchgrass). Surprisingly, when fed switchgrass, the microalgae had “improved cell growth and lipid productivity.”
The research team believes that this can help boost the algae’s potential value as a biofuel. According to Amanda Barry, who is from Los Alamos’s Bioenergy and Biome Sciences group, algae is a very promising source of renewable fuel because they can produce “refinery-compatible diesel and jet fuel precursors.”
Barry, who is the lead author on the study, explained that by determining which algae strains can use plant substrates (e.g., switchgrass and corn stover, the part of the plant left behind in a field post-harvest) to grow faster and with a higher lipid content implies that even waste plant material can be used to boost the productivity of algae. This means that, if successful, even algae can be cultivated to produce eco-friendly biofuels or bioproducts.
Barry commented that by identifying the unique enzymes and biochemical pathways that algae need to break down complex plant lignocellulose, researchers are one step closer to fully understanding algal biology. Learning more about algae can help scientists discover new avenues of future designer engineering that can advance algal biofuel production strains. (Related: Dead zone-forming algae could be used to enrich soils and produce biofuel, say scientists.)
This study is the first of its kind to focus on algae degradation and the use of untreated plant substrate. The LANL study is also a pioneer when it comes to studying the “putative genetic and molecular mechanisms” that makes this degradation possible. Data from the study also helped identify potential glycosyl hydrolases that may be involved in plant deconstruction.
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a tough grass that can grow even in harsh conditions.
Corn stover is the name for the cobs, leaves, and stalks left in fields after corn is harvested.
Read more articles about microalgae and how they can be used to produce biofuel at Ecology.news.
Tagged Under: A. protothecoides, Auxenochlorella protothecoides, BioFuel, carbon energy source, corn stover, environment, environmental protection, freshwater microalgae, green energy, microalgae, switchgrass