VOLKER STEGER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY VOLKER STEGER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Algae biodiesel. Flask of algae biodiesel, Solazyme Inc., USA. Algae are photosynthesising micro- organisms that can convert carbon dioxide into large amounts of lipids. Solazyme uses synthetic biology and genetic engineering to produce novel strains of algae. These are grown in tanks of fermentation bioreactors and fed sugars directly. This closed system allows the temperature and pressure to be accurately controlled, compared to open systems that rely on the presence of sunlight. Biodiesel is produced by reacting algaelipids with alcohol, a process known as transesterification. Unlike fossil fuels, biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic. However it is more costly to produce. Photographed in 2008.
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