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Many companies are working to modify algae to produce biofuels through “excretion.” That is, instead of storing oils in the biomass, the algae would excrete useful chemical into the culture, or medium in which they are grown. This approach has the advantage of requiring only an initial, and small, amount of algal biomass that would continually produce oils, avoiding the need for harvesting and processing which can add significantly to the overall cost. Ethanol, butanol, fatty acids, hydrocarbons, gaseous fuels, and many more useful products all can be excreted by modifying the algae. San Diego-based Synthetic Genomics is working with Exxon on this type of approach.
There’s no doubt that the algae industry has just scratched the surface of how best to grow and harvest algae. Even within these five areas of production there is much room for innovation and additional breakthroughs, and it will be fascinating to see the evolution in the coming years.
UCSD’s Dr. Mitchell gives a lesson in algae 101
CLICK HERE for more photos about algae basics
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