Algae and Fungi to power biofuel production system

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Researchers at MSU developed a new proof of concept for a biofuel production platform using an alga, Nannochloropsis oceanica, and fungus, Mortierella elongate.

The newly designed system for producing biofuel by scientists at MSU promises to be efficient and effective and is most likely to be adopted by manufacturers throughout the world. The alga species, Nannochloropsis oceanica, and fungus species, Mortierella elongata, is capable of producing oils for human use. Products such as biofuels and omega-3 fatty acids could be synthesized using marine alga and land fungi. Omega fatty acids are used to maintain heart health.

Combination of fungi and alga in a common environment, leads to formation of big masses. This formation of large aggregates is called as bio-flocculation. Upon harvesting the agglomerate, scientists observed that the organisms yield more oil than if they were cultivated and harvested each on their own. The organisms used in the experiment are commonly available and are non-poisonous. Zhi-Yan (Rock) Du, one of the researcher and first author of the study says: “We used natural organisms with high affinity for each other. The algae are very productive, and the fungus we use is neither toxic to us nor edible. It’s a very common soil fungus that can be found in your back yard.” The work was published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels on September 2018.

The system is sustainable as it does not require fossil fuels, the fungi and algae grow on their own naturally without any external power source. The harvesting process is also cost effective as the species are wild variant and no genetic modification is required for its growth. However, this system is not suitable for industrial scale production of biofuels as it involves a complex process investing lots of time and labor. The scientists are finding new ways to produce biofuels on large scale.

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