Biodiesel algae: Starvation diets damage health

Mar 11, 2013

It may be better to tolerate lower oil content in algae grown for biodiesel to boost growth and overall productivity, says research from the University of Sheffield.

The research shows that the commonly accepted method of depriving algae of key nutrients such as nitrogen in order to boost its oil content may be detrimental to overall oil yield in the long term.

"Total oil production depends not just on the of the but how quickly the cells grow and multiply," says Dr Stephen Wilkinson of the University's Department of Chemical and . "We found you get more oil production overall if you give the algae all nutrients they need to grow fast rather than trying to increase the oil in each cell by limiting the availability of nitrogen."

In a study funded by the Carbon Trust and US consulting engineering firm MWH Global, Dr Wilkinson, along with colleagues from the University of Manchester, examined a species of algae called Dunaliella salina at different cell densities grown at a range of temperatures to determine the rate of growth and lipid production.

Some samples were deprived of nitrogen, whilst others were allowed to grow naturally. During the course of the 4-week study the overall yield from the nitrogen starved crops was in fact lower than many of the crops that had been allowed to grow naturally.

Another key finding of the study was that productivity could also be increased by increasing cell density. The researchers used to create more crowded algal cultures and were surprised to see that this these samples could still grow very well.

"Large-scale production of algal biofuels will need big ponds taking up a lot of space," says Dr Wilkinson, "so anything we can do to squeeze more oil out of a smaller land area is very important."

The study is published in the Journal of and Biotechnology.

Explore further: How an RNA gene silences a whole chromosome

More information: Optimization of lipid production for algal biodiesel in nitrogen stressed cells of Dunaliella salina using FTIR analysis, DOI: 10.1002/jctb.4027

Related Stories

Carbon is key for getting algae to pump out more oil

Jun 18, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Overturning two long-held misconceptions about oil production in algae, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory show that ramping up the microbes’ ...

Algae biodiesel production has to be three times cheaper

Oct 01, 2010

The cost of producing biodiesel from algae is now three and a half times more than producing it from oil, and twice as much as producing fuel from rapeseed. Investments in biotechnology would however make it feasible for ...

More than mere pond scum

Apr 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Algae could soon become a valuable biofuel resource, according to research at the University of Arizona.

Recommended for you

How an RNA gene silences a whole chromosome

3 hours ago

Researchers at Caltech have discovered how an abundant class of RNA genes, called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs, pronounced link RNAs) can regulate key genes. By studying an important lncRNA, called Xist, ...

Single cells seen in unprecedented detail

6 hours ago

Researchers have developed a large-scale sequencing technique called Genome and Transcriptome Sequencing (G&T-seq) that reveals, simultaneously, the unique genome sequence of a single cell and the activity ...

York's anti-malarial plant given Chinese approval

Apr 24, 2015

A new hybrid plant used in anti-malarial drug production, developed by scientists at the University of York's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), is now registered as a new variety in China.

The appeal of being anti-GMO

Apr 24, 2015

A team of Belgian philosophers and plant biotechnologists have turned to cognitive science to explain why opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has become so widespread, despite positive contributions ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.