Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Agriculture

Red Seaweed Could Be the Next Biofuel Super-Crop

university of illinois researchers develop yeast to convert red seaweed to biofuelRed is about to become the new green, if researchers from the University of Illinois are on the right track. They’ve developed a new super-efficient strain of yeast that can easily break down red seaweed into biofuel. The new development could help small island nations and other sea-bound regions grow biofuel crops without giving up scarce land resources that are needed to grow food. But it also opens up some challenges down the road as human use of the marine environment increases.

Biofuel from Red Seaweed

When it comes to extracting fuel from non-food biomass, seaweed has general advantages over land crops. The most obvious one is the relative absence of hard fibers that are difficult to break down into sugars. Marine biomass degrades much more easily than land crops, but there is still a catch. When red seaweed is broken down it yields both glucose and galactose (a less “sweet” form of sugar), and until now it has been difficult to find an efficient fermentation process for galactose. The University of Illinois team identified three genes in a common microbe, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that can be pumped up to increase galactose fermentation by 250 percent.

Biofuels Beyond Red Seaweed

If the new process proves commercially viable, that might open up a can of worms for the marine environment. Our oceans can ill afford a new stress, as fisheries are already overstretched and coral reefs around the world (a canary in the coal mine in terms of marine health) are suffering. However, if it turns out that growing seaweed for biofuel on a mass scale is not viable, the new yeast process could still yield benefits, for example as a johnny-on-the-spot, cost effective means of remediating algae blooms and other potentially devastating episodes of seaweed overgrowth.

Image (altered): Red seaweed by derekkeats on flickr.com.

 
 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality and cleantech news coverage? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Advertisement
 
Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

Comments

You May Also Like

Biofuels

Headed up by the University of Illinois, a research team has developed a new strain of yeast that can feast on two very different...

Agriculture

A researcher at the University of Connecticut has come up with a solution for certain kinds of coastal water pollution. Professor Charles Yarish is...

Air Quality

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, otherwise known as DARPA, has been developing next generation solar technology and a slew of other game-changing...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.