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Monday, March 25, 2013
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
CNLS Conference Room (TA-3, Bldg 1690)

Colloquium

Molecular strategies for enhanced biomass and biofuel production from microalgae

Richard Sayre
New Mexico Consortium

One of the more environmentally sustainable ways to produce energy is the conversion of solar energy into biomass. Plants and algae use solar energy to reduce carbon dioxide to carbohydrates and oils. The first-generation biofuels (alcohol and diesel) were/are produced from only a few crop systems. Typically, only a fraction of the solar energy captured and converted into chemical energy (biomass) was harvestable. Inefficiencies in feedstock harvesting and processing further reduced the recoverable energy and reduced net carbon capture. Next generation biofuel production systems are expected to have a lower impact on the environment, greater productivity, greater energy return on investment, and will be directly compatible with the existing energy infra-structure. One of the more attractive next generation biofuel systems is algae. Algae grow rapidly, have high oil content (up to 55% oil), and are capable of producing 3-10 times more biomass per unit land area than any terrestrial crop system. In addition, algae can potentially capture CO2 as bicarbonate in ponds as well as utilize nutrient-rich waste water. Significantly, the single-celled algae are also one of the more evolutionary diverse groups of organisms whose biodiversity represents a rich resource for bioprospecting for new genes and biochemical potential. However, the economics of algal bioenergy production are currently not favorable. We will identify some of the constraints facing algal biofuels production systems and discuss strategies and progress towards overcoming those constraints with particular emphasis on transgenic approaches.

Host: Gnana Gnanakaran