Biological Constraints on the Production of Microalgal-Based Biofuels

Chapter
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 25)

Abstract

Algal biotechnology involving the mass culturing of microalgae has the potential to produce the next generation of biofuels. Microalgae have higher growth and solar energy conversion rates than terrestrial taxa. In addition, their osmotolerance, metabolic diversity, and in some strains the capacity to produce large amounts of lipids have attracted considerable interest from both the academic and commercial science communities. It is probable that future alga mass culture facilities will be based on open pond systems, located in areas with access to saltwater/seawater and supplies of carbon dioxide. Although there are a handful of examples of currently commercially successful algal mass culturing, these have focused on the production of higher value products (pigments, health foods, etc.). The development of algal biofuels will require much further R&D. In this chapter, we have restricted our coverage to the biological constraints to a successful commercial process. These include the basic issues of algal physiology: do we understand it sufficiently and are the algae truly “up to the task”? We also discuss the molecular control of the process; can this be enhanced conventionally or through more modern molecular approaches? Lastly, we discuss interactions with other organisms; all monocultures are susceptible to “weeds,” “pests,” disease, grazing, etc. We feel that all the challenges are achievable given time, with sufficient scientific and financial investment.

Keywords

Biofuel Production Lipid Production Mass Culture Acyl Carrier Protein Phaeodactylum Tricornutum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

 Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge funding for the BioMara project (www.biomara.ac.uk). The Biomara project is generously supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVA Programme, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The Crown Estate, Northern Ireland Executive, Scottish Government, and Irish Government.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scottish Association for Marine ScienceScottish Marine InstituteOban, ArgyllUK

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