Scientists report breakthrough in seaweed biofuel | Inquirer News
Close  

Scientists report breakthrough in seaweed biofuel

/ 10:21 PM January 20, 2012

WASHINGTON—Energy experts believe that seaweed holds enormous potential as a biofuel alternative to coal and oil, and US-based scientists say they have unlocked the secret of turning its sugar into energy.

A newly engineered microbe can do the work by metabolizing all of the major sugars in brown seaweed, potentially making it a cost-competitive alternative to petroleum fuel, said the report in the US journal Science.

ADVERTISEMENT

The team at the Berkeley, California-based Bio Architecture Lab engineered a form of E. coli bacteria that can digest the seaweed’s sugars into ethanol, it said.

Unlike other microbes before, researchers found it can attack the primary sugar constituent in seaweed, known as alginate.

FEATURED STORIES

“Our scientists have engineered an enzyme to degrade and a pathway to metabolize the alginate, allowing us to utilize all the major sugars in seaweed, said Daniel Trunfio, chief executive at Bio Architecture Lab.

The advance “makes the biomass an economical feedstock for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals,” he said.

A company spokesman told AFP that the lab currently has four aquafarming sites in Chile where it hopes to “scale up its microbe technology as the next step on the path to commercialization” in the next three years.

Seaweed is seen as an appealing option for biofuel because, unlike corn and sugar cane, it does not use arable land and so does not compete with crops grown for food.

Less than three percent of the world’s coastal waters can produce enough seaweed to replace some 60 billion gallons of fossil fuel, according to background information in the article.

At peak production, seaweed could produce 19,000 liters per hectare annually, about twice the level of ethanol productivity from sugarcane and five times higher than the ethanol productivity from corn.

Funding for the research came from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, a grant from InnovaChile, and Norwegian oil giant Statoil.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.
Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: biofuel, Energy, News, seaweed, world
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.



© Copyright 1997-2021 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.