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AgriLife scientists do groundwork for genetic mapping of algae biofuel species
Date:3/12/2010

COLLEGE STATION - - Using green algae to produce hydrocarbon oil for biofuel production is nothing new; nature has been doing so for hundreds of millions of years, according a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.

"Oils from the green algae Botryococcus braunii can be readily detected in petroleum deposits and coal deposits suggesting that B. braunii has been a contributor to developing these deposits and may be the major contributor," said Dr. Timothy Devarenne, AgriLife Research scientist with the Texas A&M University department of biochemistry and biophysics. "This means that we are already using these oils to produce gasoline from petroleum."

It's not just a gee-whiz science trivia, Devarenne said. B. braunii is a prime candidate for biofuel production because some races of the green algae typically "accumulate hydrocarbons from to 30 percent to 40 percent of their dry weight, and are capable of obtaining hydrocarbon contents up to 86 percent of their dry weight.

"As a group, algae may be the only photosynthetic organism capable of producing enough biofuel to meet transportation fuel demands."

Devarenne is part of a team comprised of other scientists with AgriLife Research, the University of Kentucky and the University of Tokyo trying to understand more about B. braunii, including its genetic sequence and its family history.

"Without understanding how the cellular machinery of a given algae works on the molecular level, it won't be possible to improve characteristics such as oil production, faster growth rates or increased photosynthesis," Devarenne said.

Like most green algae, B. braunii is capable of producing great amounts of hydrocarbon oils in a very small land area.

B. braunii algae show particular promise not just because of their high production of oil but also because of the type of oil they produce, Devarenne said. While many high-oil-producing alg
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Contact: Robert Burns
rd-burns@tamu.edu
903-312-3199
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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