Bacteria to Help Grow Better Algae for Biodiesel

John Davis

rotifer1We hear a lot about probiotics when it comes to nutrition for people. But research in California is developing probiotic bacteria that will help protect algae that can be turned into biodiesel. This article from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory says scientists there have received an additional $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the bacteria to combat pond infestation and increase ecosystem function and resilience.

Annual productivity is a key metric for algal biofuel production that, if optimized, could significantly decrease and stabilize biofuel price per gallon. Since grazers can result in a 30 percent loss in annual biomass productivity, a consistent mechanism for preventing predators will increase productivity and in turn decrease biofuel cost per gallon.

“We are only just beginning to understand that the pond microbiome is not only an indicator of health but also a tool for crop protection,” said Rhona Stuart, one of the team members from LLNL.

The goal of the project is to identify and employ “probiotic” bacteria to increase microalgal survival by two-fold when under attack by rotifers or chytrids in mass algal cultures.

Rotifers and chytrids are common culprits of algae grazing. By using probiotic bacteria to increase algal resistance against these grazers, the team estimates at minimum a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in annual productivity. The proposed tool has several advantages over the baseline, including minimal risk of pest evolution, tailored microbiome diversity to increase ecosystem resilience and productivity, and probiotics that can increase algal productivity and outgrow pests.

The lab says this work will help overcome the barrier that exists in translating laboratory success to open pond success.

algae, Biodiesel