Scientists have discovered a way to potentially increase the natural hydrocarbon production of algae. The discovery was recently reported in Nature Communications Journal and focuses on Botryococcus braunii, a common strain of algae. The strain naturally produces hydrocarbons, but not at a pace or scale that would allow for commercial production.
In studying the plant, scientists discovered an enzyme called lycopaoctaene synthase that is involved in hydrocarbon production. While this enzyme only produces a small amount of oil in Botryococcus braunii, scientists found that the production was faster when the enzyme was inserted into faster-growing organisms. While more study is needed, the researchers see the potential for using this genetic information to produce larger amounts of biofuels.
While there is a perception that today’s low oil prices have put pressure on algae-based biofuels, this research proves that innovation is still occurring at a noteworthy pace and the shrinking of the cost differential might not be as far off as some may think.
For more information, visit Nature Communications.