Researchers in The Netherlands are finding the fattest, or best oil-producing, algae in hopes of developing the fittest strain for biodiesel production. This story from TU Delft says the school’s scientists have published their findings in the scientific journal Energy & Environmental Science.
‘The ultimate goal of our research is to make oil-producing algae as fat as possible, then press the oil out of them and finally produce biodiesel suitable for cars from this oil,’ explains PhD student Peter Mooij of TU Delft.
A major threat to the stable cultivation of oil-producing algae is infection by other, thinner algae. One option is to use a sealed cultivation system and keep unwanted algae out of the system by means of sterilisation. Although this is theoretically possible, it would be practically infeasible and extremely expensive to do this on a large scale.
‘Our method is more suitable for large-scale algae production. We try to select for a particular characteristic and not for a particular species of algae. We are unconcerned whether species A or species B is used in our system, as long as they have the characteristic ‘fat’. So all algae are welcome in our system,’ says Mooij.
The article goes on to explain how the researchers are using a technique that provides light and carbon dioxide to the algae during the day that promotes oil production but keeps them from dividing by holding back the nutrients needed for cell division. Those fattest algae are then separated from the others to find the fittest, fattest strain.