Thursday, August 18, 2011

Algae Could Solve World's Fuel Crisis | BC Sustainable Energy Association

Algae Could Solve World's Fuel Crisis | BC Sustainable Energy Association Genetically modified blue and green algae could be the answer to the world's fuel problems. Bioengineers have already developed algae that produce ethanol, oil and even diesel -- and the only things the organisms need are sunlight, CO2 and seawater. Biochemist Dan Robertson's living gas stations have the dark-green shimmer of oak leaves and are as tiny as E. coli bacteria. Their genetic material has been fine-tuned by human hands. When light passes through their outer layer, they excrete droplets of fuel. "We had to fool the organism into doing what I wanted it to do," says Robertson, the head of research at the US biotech firm Joule Unlimited. He proudly waves a test tube filled with a green liquid. The businesslike biochemist works in a plain, functional building on Life Sciences Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His laboratory is sparsely furnished and the ceiling is crumbling. Nevertheless, something miraculous is happening in the lab, where Robertson and his colleagues are working on nothing less than solving the world's energy problem. They have already created blue algae that produce diesel fuel. Scientists rave about a new, green revolution. Using genetic engineering and sophisticated breeding and selection methods, biochemists, mainly working in the United States, are transforming blue and green algae into tiny factories for oil, ethanol and diesel.

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