WWCC Director, Dr Steven Hensen, says the research led by Professor Andy Ball, Chair in Environmental Biotechnology at Flinders University, Australia, has isolated the gene that encodes an enzyme capable of producing a class of hydrocarbons known as triterpenoids, which includes the rare Dihydro Squalene.
Future research will focus on producing commercially viable quantities of biofuel and by-products from the green algae, Botryococcus Braunii.
“The organism used to extract this gene is not at present economically significant. However, the gene itself can form a biotechnological platform for production of fuel from renewable sources,” Hensen says.
“By isolating this gene and inserting it into an alternative organism we have paved the way to substantially reduce the cost of producing oil from algae.”
He adds: “By absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, converting algae to oil has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint by a factor of four. It is estimated that to produce 1 metric tonne of oil from algae will not only absorb 5 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide but also release 3.5 tonnes of oxygen.”