ABO member and University of Delaware associate scientist Dr. Jennifer Stewart is working to create sustainable algae-based biofuels that could reduce carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions in the atmosphere. Her recent work on carbon capture and utilization with algae is attracting some attention.
Many scientists have proposed growing algae on power plant smokestacks to neutralize their emissions, which typically contain high levels of nitric oxide and carbon dioxide gases. Nitrogen oxides in industrial emissions are highly toxic and contribute to acid rain and ground-level ozone, while also damaging human health and destroying food crops.
Stewart discovered that Heterosigma akashiwo, a species of algae that thrives in Delaware waterways and worldwide, contains a special enzyme with the unique ability to convert nitric oxide gas into a form of nitrogen it can use for food. So instead of dying in the presence of toxic emissions, H. akashiwo thrives, a discovery that may help push algae further into the major leagues of biofuel sourcing.