Technology.am (Oct. 8, 2009) — The researchers at North Carolina State University are working to make Dunaliella algae as a fuel source because they grow quickly and can be grown throughout the year, they don’t use up freshwater supplies and can be cultivated in areas where they won’t compete with traditional food crops, such as corn or soybeans.
They provide the potential to create 100 times as much feedstock per acre as conventional crops, says professor Dr. Bill Roberts, at North Carolina State University. They got a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
“We’re looking at microscopic marine algae that produce fatty acids and do not have a cell wall. We plan to genetically modify the algae so that they will continuously produce these fatty acids, which we can then continually harvest,” Roberts says. “We also plan to genetically modify the algae to produce fatty acids of a specific length, to expedite the conversion of the fatty acids into fuels that can be used by our existing transportation infrastructure.”
Specifically, Roberts says, “the goal is to create fuels that can be used in place of diesel, gasoline and jet fuel.”
And, Roberts stresses, “it has to be cost-competitive, or none of this makes sense. It’s easy to be cost-competitive when oil is at $300 a barrel.
Roberts adds that an additional benefit to using algae as a fuel source is that the algal cultures would be transportable. For example, people in a remote area could set up a system to grow the algae and produce the fuel on-site, rather than shipping the finished product thousands of miles.