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Oil from algae closer to reality through studies by unique collaboration of scientists
Date:9/14/2012

COLLEGE STATION A team of researchers that has been working on getting fuel-grade oil out of algae may be within four years of a near-commercial-scale production level.

The team, with a combined expertise from agriculture to engineering, has received a $2 million National Science Foundation grant to help hasten the process, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research biochemist and collaborator on the project.

The challenge is to help the oil-laden alga, Botryococcus braunii, live up to its potential, Devarenne said.

A team of researchers that has been working on getting fuel-grade oil out of algae may be within four years of a near-commercial-scale production level.

The team, with a combined expertise from agriculture to engineering, has received a $2 million National Science Foundation grant to help hasten the process, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research biochemist and collaborator on the project. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Known by scientists for more than 100 years, B. braunii is the shirker of the algae world, seemingly floating aimlessly in bubbling tanks of water in no hurry to grow up and be pressed into oil. Other algae go through life as self-starters on a fast-track to success but don't produce oil like B. braunii. The researchers want the useful traits from each to commingle.

"We're interested in taking the genetic information out of the slow-growing alga the genetic information for producing the hydrocarbons and transferring that into a faster growing alga," Devarenne said. "Then maybe we can more economically produce these oils."

For his part of the study, Devarenne will study the B. braunii's molecular biology to find out what genes are responsible for production of the oil. His lab will also try to understand the function of those genes and how they contribute to the production of the oil.

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Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Source:Eurekalert  

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