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Interview with John Glass @ Craig Venter Institute – Role of Bacteria, Algae in Future Fuels

October 30th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Fuel-Research

You are at: Oilgae Blog.

I really liked this interview with John Glass, a senior scientist at the J. Craig Venter Institute’s Synthetic Biology and Bioenergy division in Rockville, where researchers are working to create synthetic bacteria that could be engineered to make cheap, abundant fuel. He provides insights on how to use bacteria and micro-organisms to make fuel, please read the full interview here . This is what he has to say about the role of algae:


What excites you in alternative fuels? All of it, I think. I really like the idea of convincing algae to make long-chain fatty acids or long-chain alcohols. So if we could convince algae to efficiently produce oils — and there are algae that make up to 70 percent of their weight as oils — now, these are slow-growing algae, but if we could convince these algae, by genetically manipulating them, to grow rapidly and produce these oils, then you could develop ponds in non-arable land that would have this thin film of algae on the top. Every so often you harvest all the algae off the top, extract the oil, use the rest as animal feed, and a few days later you come back and you’ve got more.

What would it take for this to become reality? It’s hard to know yet. There are untold species of algae. Untold species of bacteria. We have to understand the pathways that lead to the production. We have to understand more how about algae do this. We have to convince organisms to make these fuels and still survive and propagate and make more organisms. And so this will involve understanding how life works in some ways that we may not understand it right now. The key discoveries, I don’t know what they’ll be. I think that the tools of synthetic biology can go a really long way towards developing biofuels that are truly carbon neutral and potentially also neutral in terms of impacting the world’s capacity to produce food. There are remarkable things that may become possible in the very near future.

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