Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Morbidly Obese Algae

A California group has discovered a metabolic trigger in algae cells that "would substantially increase lipid production and lead to high yield." They're calling this, in other words, "fat" or "obese" algae (link).

In California, Sustainable Green Technologies announced that SGT scientists have uncovered a “lipid trigger” in green algae. Under certain conditions, many microalgae had appeared to “flip a switch” that increased production and storage of oils instead of starch. SGT said that it is able to activate the switch and to create “obese algae.

“We found the waste from our biohydrogen system sparked tremendous growth of our green algae, and more importantly, massively increased lipid production and storage within our algae,” said SGT CSO Dr. Elmar Schmid. SGT’s CSO. In other words, our algae became obese within one week! We now have a highly efficient, cost-effective way of producing large amounts of algae oils for biodiesel fuel production. On top of that, we can produce clean biohydrogen from the resulting biodiesel refinery waste!” exclaims Dr. Schmid.

SGT’s biohydrogen-producing microbes can convert a variety of feedstock into biohydrogen energy including glycerol waste, sugars derived from sugar cane and sugar beet, brewery waste. SGT said it had also applied for a DOE grant for its biohydrogen and algae system.

- Brewskie


  1. If this is real this is disruptive technology.
    OK so let's do the math:
    The current US fleet uses 13 million barrels per day and averages 15mpg.
    It's not a stretch of the imagination to say that using current diesel technology that could be 45mpg. Now let's consider further that they use plug-in hybrid technology to take it up to 90mpg. That's a factor of 6 increase in efficiency.
    So 13 million barrels a day becomes about 2 million barrels a day.
    Do you think that between tar sands, coal-to-diesel, lower 48 oil production and say a couple hundred thou barrels a day of algae oil we might, maybe possibly be able to keep industry and (shock, horror) the burbs running?


  2. That's a very nice thought. It's likely that without sufficient market demand, it's likely auto manufacturers in the US (and by manufacturers, I mean anyone who builds cars in the US, including foreign brands) will be resistant to building diesel engines for commuter cars. For one thing, its more expensive (thus increases the price tag) and the automakers would have to pump cash developing diesel engines (even though technologically, they could achieve this with ease).

    My guess is that unless proper demand inserts itself into the equation (such as in Europe, where high fuel taxes encourage people to buy fuel-efficient diesel-powered cars), the automakers will most likely view diesel-powered cars as a niche market.