Chemical Triggers to Improve Lipid Production by Microalgae


Background: Oils produced by microalgae can be harvested and converted to biodiesel. New research has successfully improved the yield of oil from algae by using chemical triggers to regulate algal metabolic pathways. As a result CO2 is sequestered yield is increased and there is greater viability in producing clean energy to replace petroleum. Technology Description: Researchers at the University of California Davis have discovered a new method of chemical control that increases microalgae’s production of glycerol-based lipids. This method involves screening and identifying bioactive organic compounds in microalgae. Chemical triggers will increase production of intracellular lipids in the form of triacylglyerols (TAGs) by modulating lipid-related pathways. The yield and composition of lipids can be improved by the application of one or more chemical triggers and at different times during growth. Researchers have demonstrated a greater than 100% increase in lipids as measured by Nile Red lipid detection for microplate assays and greater than 80% increase in lipids using gravimetric analysis. In effect the chemical triggers improve growth and lipid levels thus increasing yield for conversion to biodiesel. This method avoids creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Biodiesel produced from algae can be burned in diesel engines and has characteristics of water-resistance stability resistant to corrosion clean-burning and biodegradability. More efficient supply of biomass will make biodiesel a more economic choice for diversifying energy portfolios. Applications: 1) Bioenergy a. Improves biomass yield b. Improves lipid yield for conversion to biodiesel 2) Greenhouse gas reduction: a. Promotes carbon sequestration b. Supplies cleaner fuel for energy and is a petroleum replacement c. Reduces production cost of biofuel


1) Reduces CO2 levels in the atmosphere 2) Provides lipid products that can be converted to biodiesel 3) Increases the volume yield per biomass while maintaining growth 4) Reduces area needed for biomass production as compared to crop-based plants 5) Grows in seawater thus avoiding freshwater use 6) Encourages “natural” methods of production without genetic engineering 7) Utilizes real-time control methods 8) Applies across various and industrially relevant algae strains 9) Applies compatibly with other growth conditions known to increase lipid production 10) Has ability to control the amount and type of lipids (i.e. composition for fuel properties) produced 11) Offers safe and affordable method for increasing yield

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