Marine algae a potential sustainable source of biodiesel

Algal oil could be a future renewable fuel source, scientists at the Scottish Association for Marine (SAMS) Science say.

Using a new technique to examine micro-algae strains in the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa (CCAP) – an internationally recognised algal storage based at SAMS in Oban, Scotland – the scientist found that two marine algae strains, Nannochlorops oceanica and Chlorella vulgaris, both had a dry-weight oil content of more than 50%.

Their high oil content makes these algae ideal sources of biofuel for land and aerial transport.

SAMS scientists have demonstrated that Nannochloropsis, for example, is very efficient at converting nutrients, so it has the perfect combination of high levels of oil and high productivity.

The report’s lead author, Dr Stephen Slocombe, SAMS research associate in molecular biology, says: ‘In order to produce biofuels from micro-algae we will have to generate high yields, so we need to know which strains will produce the most oil.’

‘There has been a great deal of interest in the last few years surrounding biofuels from microalgae linked to a very limited number of species. This research not only highlights the potential of marine algae as sources of biofuels but also for a wider set of biotechnology applications,’ says Dr. Michele Stanley, centre lead for marine biotechnology at SAMS.

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