Generating Hydrocarbons from Microalgae

June 7, 2005 - 12:00pm
Bldg. 90

Based on the need for the development of photosynthetic organisms for renewable energy production, carbon sequestration and high-value bio-product generation, a program of research will be presented that aims to employ unicellular green algae of the genus Botryococcus, elucidate the biochemistry associated with a unique lipid-accumulation pathway in these species, and develop engineering protocols for the continuous cultivation of the cells, and harvesting of such energy-rich compounds. Botryococcus species produce copious quantities of bio-oils, the secretion of which from the cells leads to the formation of globules in the growth medium. Primary goal of the research is to engineer Botryococcus for enhanced rates of growth and hydrocarbon production beyond the naturally occurring level, and to develop a continuous bioreactor system for simultaneous cultivation of cells and in-situ removal of hydrocarbons from the growth medium. Advances in our understanding of the physiology and biochemical pathway leading to the synthesis of lipid/hydrocarbon, and the application of genetic and engineering tools in this research could make unicellular green algae suitable for the production of important industrial and pharmaceutical compounds. Specific topics that will be discussed include: (a) Properties of photosynthesis, respiration and photochemical apparatus organization in unicellular green algae such as Chlamydomonas and Botryococcus. (b) Utilization of nutrient deprivation as a tool by which to induce and, subsequently, analyze changes in cellular metabolic flux in these organisms. (c) Optimization of the optical properties of the cells for increased efficiency of solar energy conversion. (d) Transformation of Botryococcus, or surrogate transformation of the model green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, for the elucidation of botryococcene biosynthesis (a C30 branched hydrocarbon). (d) Development of an efficient two-phase aqueous-organic solvent partition and hydrocarbon extraction system to alleviate cell-growth inhibition by the accumulated hydrocarbons and provide a basis for bioreactor design and scale-up of hydrocarbon production. These objectives need be pursued through an interdisciplinary project, comprising expertise and research interests in biochemistry, physiology, molecular genetics, fermentation, reaction engineering, and downstream processing. The use of advanced technical resources and know-how, available at Berkeley, provide the basis of substantial efforts in this field, while advancing the science of carbon sequestration, biomass accumulation and specialty product generation through greater understanding of green algal biochemistry. Future practical applications of this R&D might include hydrocarbon utilization by the synthetic chemistry industry and conversion into commercial grade fuel with green microalgae acting as cellular CPP.

Add event to Google Calendar

Announcement List

To be added to our seminar annoucement list please, email ETA Seminars. Seminars may change without notice, stay informed by joining our seminar email list. 

Site Access

For site access please email your request to ETA Seminars. To arrive at Building 90 via the LBNL shuttle, take "Blue Uphill". Click here for the shuttle schedule. To ensure your site access is set-up send your request 36 hours in advance of the seminar.

Remote Access

Not able to attend in person? Remote participants can use ReadyTalk Audio & Net conference to phone in to listen, while viewing the presentation via the ReadyTalk site.

Web Access Code: 4864835

USA & Canada call-in number:
1 (866) 740-1260
Access Code: 4864835#

International callers:
Please visit this website to see if a toll-free call-in number is available for your international location.

If not, you will need to pay for the call yourself and use this phone number:

(303) 248-0285.