By Gary Thomas
Dr. Tim Devarenne, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research biochemist and project’s collaborator, stated that National Science Foundation has provided a $2 M grant to the expertise team to expedite the process.
A team of researchers that has been working on getting fuel-grade oil out of algae may be within four years of a near-commercial-scale production level.
The team has been challenged to improve the competence of Botryococcus braunii, the oil-laden alga.
The extended effort of a research team targeted in deriving fuel-grade oil from algae will be achieved in another four years of a near-commercial-scale manufacturing level.
Recognized over a century ago, B. braunii is the shirker of the algae family that floats in water tanks. It is a slow-growing alga and can be pressed into oil. The ability of B. braunii to produce oil makes it outstanding from other self-starter algae. The researchers want to tap the beneficial features of each alga.
Devarenne will target the molecular biology of the B. braunii to determine the specific genes responsible for oil production. Research will be carried out to identify the function of genes in producing oil.
The microfluidic lab-on chip device invented by Dr. Arum Han will foster the longevity of B. braunii. Scientists can also analyze the factors affecting growth rate, biomass accumulation, and oil production. Screening of large amounts of algae will enable determining optimal growth conditions that favor the production of oil. Fuels obtained from algae are reliable, sustainable and acts as an effective alternative fuel source for driving conventional combustion engines.
Team member Dr. Tzachi Samocha with AgriLife Research in Corpus Christi will demonstrate the large-scale method of integrating both hydrocarbon-producing capabilities and fast-growing traits within one alga.
In addition to being a lucrative factor to the industry, the product will promote sustainability, through operations like cleaning up the wastewater, thereby regulating eco-system.