Monday, July 27, 2009

Biological Approaches to Liquid Fuels Make Gains

Synthetic biology is making great progress in programming microbial cells for energy production. Harvard's George Church, cofounder of LS9, has developed the MAGE platform for rapid cell programming.

Joule Biotechnologies has developed its Helioculture technology for using sunlight for conversion of CO2 to fuels.

Bioscience firm Target Growth has devised a way to cause algae to produce 400% more oil.

Origin Oil has improved its method of extracting oil from algae without destroying the organism.

According to US oil giant ExxonMobil, which recently launched a $600 million research and development project on the issue, algae could yield more than 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre per year of production (7,580 litres). Approximate yields for other fuel sources are far lower, it pointed out:

* Palm — 650 gallons per acre per year (2,463 litres).
* Sugar cane — 450 gallons per acre per year (1,705 litres).
* Corn — 250 gallons per acre per year (947 litres).
* Soy — 50 gallons per acre per year (190 litres).

As a consequence, algae need much less land to grow than conventional biofuels, ending the potential for conflict with food production which comes with increased energy crop cultivation. _Bioenergy

Overview of algae's near term future

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