December 29, 2008

Engineered algae spreads the light

Genetically modify green algae to reduce the amount of sunlight each cell absorbs and, counterintuitively, you can increase the amount of sunlight a mass of algae absorbs. The method promises to boost biofuels production.

The algae cells were modified to have shorter chlorophyll antenna molecules, which reduces the amount of sunlight a cell absorbs. This lets sunlight reach more algae cells in a mass of algae, which boosts the overall productivity of the algae mass.

The mutant algae produced 44 milliliters of oxygen per hour compared to 23 milliliters for wild algae.

The technique could be applied to algae that produce biofuels to increase their yields.

Research paper:
Optical Properties of Microalgae for Enhanced Biofuels Production
Optics Express, December 22, 2008

Researcher's homepage:
Anastasios Melis

Related stories and briefs:
Engineered algae project funded -- related research

Back to ERN December 29, 2008/January 5, 2009



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