Light nanofilter system worth its weight in gold and silver

Oct 29, 2013
Light nanofilter system worth its weight in gold and silver

(Phys.org) —In a breakthrough described by one international expert as 'a wonderful piece of lateral thinking', a team of researchers from The University of Western Australia has helped develop a novel nanoparticle light filter system that stimulates the growth of useful microalgal organisms.

The resulting microalgal cells and their -absorbing photopigments provide high value-added which could lead to environmentally sustainable applications including biofuels, medical antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, natural food and soap colorants, cosmetic agents, and feed supplements in aquaculture.

"Hence, their large-scale economic production is commercially desirable," the researchers wrote in a paper published recently in the prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Green Chemistry.

Research Assistant Professor Ela Eroglu and Dr Paul Eggers working with Winthrop Professor Steven Smith, of UWA's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology - and with Flinders University clean technology expert Professor Colin Raston - developed a passive way of using minute, reusable gold and silver particles to create an optical nanofilter which harnesses the light wavelengths most beneficial to microalgal pigment formation.

Algae grow in natural light but too much light, or certain wavelengths of light, can inhibit its growth. The researchers used the nanoparticles to 'extract' only those wavelengths which the algae could use, resulting in improved growth.

"While commercial application is a long way off, this research shows that algal productivity can be improved using advances in nanotechnology," Dr Eroglu said.

The research ties in with an increasing worldwide interest in the use of microorganisms, including microalgal cells, for production of bioenergy and biomass. Bioenergy production offers many potential opportunities such as for energy supply to rural communities, while biomass production is useful for animal feed and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

"Perhaps even more exciting is the potential to use such nanofilters in artificial photosynthesis systems - the 'Holy Grail' of Green Chemistry - in which solar energy would be used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen for fuel," Professor Smith said.

Explore further: Novel combination ensures entire solar spectrum harnessed

More information: pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2013/gc/c3gc41291a

Related Stories

Microalgae 'bulging with biofuel potential'

Jul 10, 2012

MISA researchers from SARDI have isolated and evaluated a ‘super strain’ of a native microalgae species that could form the basis of a local biofuels industry.

DNA constructs antenna for solar energy

Jun 19, 2013

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have found an effective solution for collecting sunlight for artificial photosynthesis. By combining self-assembling DNA molecules with simple dye molecules, ...

Recommended for you

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

Apr 16, 2014

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lurker2358
1 / 5 (2) Oct 29, 2013
Can they figure out how to stop "Aquadynia"?

Seriously. I'm allergic to something in the city water, or so it seems.

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...