Re-Engineering Algae for Biodiesel Production
Currently, hydrocarbon fuels such as diesel and gasoline require complex chemical processing to be manufactured and are made primarily from non-renewable fossil fuels, which are being depleted, whereas the single-cell algae use photosynthesis and are renewable resources, said John Morgan, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Purdue.
The Purdue portion of the work focuses on creating algae that produce more lipids, the precursor of biofuels. The algae harness solar energy to make lipids from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
"Algae now store some of their carbon as lipids, but not enough to be useful in producing biodiesel," Morgan said. "We need to genetically engineer them to increase the amount of lipids they accumulate."
The Purdue group will create "flux maps" that reveal the speed of reactions along many "metabolic pathways" inside algae, information that should enable researchers to engineer algae to store more lipids.