Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cyanobacteria - Hopeful Biofuel Alternative

I read an article today on the UT College of Natural Sciences website entitled "New Source for Biofuels Discovered", which discusses new research by UT scientists regarding cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. The cyanobacteria microbe uses sunlight to produce cellulose, glucose, and sucrose; the cellulose and sugars from the cyanobacteria are easy to break down unlike other sources of cellulose and may be continually harvested without killing or damaging the bacteria. Breaking down cellulose and sugars from traditional sources such as corn and sugar cane involve expensive mechanical and enzymatic processes which would be eliminated with the use of cyanobacteria. The need for arable land would also be minimized with the use of cyanobacteria if production of the microbe were scaled up since it can be grown on non-agricultural land. There is no mention of what the water requirements are to grow, produce, and harvest the cellulose and sugars would be for the cyanobacteria other than it could use salty water, which in and of itself could be a significant benefit due to growing water demand and shortage. Overall it sounds like a very exciting discovery, especially since it is being done right here at UT.

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