VOLKER STEGER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY VOLKER STEGER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Algae growing on petri dishes, Solazyme Inc., USA. Algae are photosynthesising micro-organisms. They convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into sugars, that are then metabolised into lipids, carbohydrates and proteins. Solazyme uses synthetic biology and genetic engineering to produce novel strains of algae. These are cultivated in tanks of fermentation bioreactors. This closed system allows the temperature and pressure to be controlled during algae growth. Open systems, which rely on sunlight, are prone to temperature fluctuations and contamination that can affect production. Algae can be processed to produce edible oils, novel compounds and biodiesel. They can also be dried for use as a fertiliser or animal feed, or burned as biomass. Photographed in 2008.
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