For over a decade, companies have promised a future of renewable fuel from algae. Investors interested in moving the world away from fossil fuel have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the effort, and with good reason. Algae replicate quickly, requiring little more than water and sunlight to accumulate to massive amounts, which then convert atmospheric CO2 into lipids (oils) that can be harvested and readily processed into biodiesel.
Despite high-profile demonstrations, promises have fallen short, and start-ups have revised business models to include production of specialty lipids, such as those used in cosmetics and soaps. Yet the dream of producing commercial-scale renewable energy persists, as new technologies emerge that might finally lead algal biofuels toward a competitive niche in the marketplace.
One of many improvements necessary for sustainable production of algal biofuel is the development of better algae. This week, researchers from Boyce Thompson Institute and Texas A&M University report in Plant Direct exciting new technology that may revolutionize the search for the perfect algal strain: Algal droplet bioreactors on a chip.To read more, click here.