University of Delaware Explores H. akashiwo Algae for Treating Smokestack Emissions
(Algae Industry Magazine) University of Delaware researchers are studying whether the algal species Heterosigma akashiwocan neutralize harmful smokestack emissions – and also serve as a source of eco-friendly biofuel. The project is an outgrowth of biochemist Kathryn Coyne’s study into the ecology of H. akashiwo, which thrives in Delaware and worldwide. Coyne and her postdoctoral fellow, Jennifer Stewart, found that the algae contain a special enzyme with the unusual ability to detoxify nitric oxide, one of multiple contaminants released through industrial chimneys as flue gas.
Based on the discovery of that enzyme, Coyne and Stewart decided to explore the possibility of recruiting the algae for pollution control. They knew that other scientists were trying to use different types of algae to reduce emissions of CO2, since algae need carbon dioxide to grow. “The problem with those attempts was that the nitric oxide also present in flue gas usually killed the algae,” said Coyne, assistant professor of marine biosciences. “It’s very harmful.”
That’s where H. akashiwo’s special enzyme may come in handy. The protein may enable the algae to convert harmful nitric oxide into innocuous nitrate, while the algae are also metabolizing carbon dioxide. Adding nitrogen is an important but costly step in the process of making biofuel. H. akashiwo’s ability to use nitric oxide from flue gas essentially eliminates that step. READ MORE