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Other Novel Applications

VG Energy’s interesting algae biofuel technology

December 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Biodiesel, Algae-Energy, Algae-Fuel-Research

VG Energy has come up with a potential solution for high yields of algae biofuel production.  This incorporates technology used in cancer research to amplify the lipid production capacity of algae species.  The same inhibitor molecules that block tumors from burning fat also cause algae to increase lipid production by up to 300%. This was found by Dr. M. Karen Newell, who works at Texas A&M Health Sciences Center is an expert on metabolic disruption, a way of controlling the behavior of a cell by altering how it stores or uses energy. Newell’s inhibitor molecules are active in minute amounts and trick the algae into storing rather than consuming their oil. This not only vastly increases lipid production, but also encourages these algae cells to excrete stored lipids outside their membranes where it can be harvested without killing the algae. Since this technique does not involve genetically altering algae like competing technologies, it also avoids numerous regulatory hurdles as it moves towards commercialization.

The potential breakthrough by Newell has caught the attention of some prominent experts in the algae biofuel field.  John Sheehan, who is currently the Biofuels Coordinator in the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota and who I remember quoting quite often in my thesis report on algae biofuels, has said “What they have stumbled on indirectly through a fairly unrelated field of research is the possibility that you really can turn on lipid production in algae,” said Sheehan. “For the last five years of the research at the National Renewable Energy Lab, we were entirely focused on exactly this question.”

It is apparent that much more research is necessary to study how this’ll work in engineered systems and other growing conditions, could this possibly be a breakthrough in the algae biofuel commercialisation process?

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