It turns out they can. Well, or at least the basis for him or a similar fuel and with the help of protein, which can be found in the most common green algae. 

An article published in the journal Nature Communications in 2016 describes a study in which scientists identified a protein found in the extremely widespread algae Botryococcus braunii. The reason for the unique ability of these algae to produce combustible materials that can be used in a wide variety of fuels (for example, to create a replacement for kerosene, diesel fuel, and so on).

These algae can be found in water at a wide variety of temperatures throughout the earth, and they are very good at producing hydrocarbon fuels that can be burned in place of oil and its derivatives. But the problem is that algae produce them in rather small quantities, and therefore the researchers were looking for the natural mechanism that allows Botryococcusbraunii to generate such valuable material.

In addition, the team discovered a protein controlled by a gene called lycopoctanesynthase that regulates the production of carbohydrates.

By introducing this gene into other plants (such as tobacco plants) or other algae, scientists can potentially significantly increase biofuel production.

“Perhaps we can transfer genetic information into organisms like fast-growing algae, or just land plants that produce a lot of biomass and make them generate fuel for us,” says Timothy Devarenne, author of the article.

Algae is generally quite a healthy thing. For example, they can purify the air near busy highways or heat apartment buildings.

Image: An experimental setup studying properties of microalgae Botryococcus braunii. (Research photo by Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&M AgriLife)

Journal Reference:

Thapa, H., Naik, M., Okada, S. et al. A squalene synthase-like enzyme initiates the production of tetraterpenoid hydrocarbons in Botryococcus braunii Race L. Nat Commun 7, 11198 (2016).

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