Farming News - Algae discovery offers potential for sustainable biofuels

Algae discovery offers potential for sustainable biofuels

20 Oct 2016

Researchers from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre in Missouri have made a breakthrough that could herald a step closer to production of ‘third generation’ biofuels (made from algae, as opposed to crop plants or by-products).

The team from Missouri discovered a way to make algae better oil producers without sacrificing growth. Dr James Umen led a team researchers from the Centre and the US Department of Agriculture which identified a mutation in the green alga Chlamydomonas. This mutation allows algae to yield high amounts of oil, whereas this can mostly be achieved only by starving cultures of algae without the mutation (in fact, when stressed the mutated cells produce double the yields of regular cells).

Dr Umen and his team found the oil-accumulating mutation in Chlamydomonas, called vip1-1, while investigating how two ‘signaling systems’ within plant cells work.

Dr Inmaculada Couso, who worked on the project commented, ”Our study reveals a new way to understand how cells control carbon metabolism and storage. As we decipher the inositol polyphosphate signaling code, we open up the prospect of being able to reprogram metabolism and make algae better producers of oil or other high value carbon-rich compounds."