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Montana State Univ. Researchers Discover Chemical Trigger that Doubles the Yield of Algal Lipids

Montana State University (MSU) researchers have discovered a chemical trigger they say doubles the yield of algal lipids for biodiesel from farmed algae. The chemical trigger is a well-timed dose of bicarbonate, a low-cost, easy-to-use chemical, similar to common stomach antacids.

The results were presented on the first day of the recent Algal Biomass Summit in Phoenix, Ariz.

When given to algae during a specific point in its growth cycle, the bicarbonate doubles the rate of production of triacylglycerol, the key precursor to biodiesel. Some cultures have shown nearly three times faster rates of triacylglycerol accumulation, which would result in significant cost savings for biofuel manufacturers. This effect has been shown in both diatoms and in green alga.

The bicarbonate also shortens the time it takes to reach high lipid yields and can be used to further enhance the efficiency of almost any algal production facility. The use of the bicarbonate addition could be beneficial to any industry where improved triacylglycerol yields are critical, such as biodiesel production and the neutraceutical industry.

The technology is available for licensing to interested companies and entrepreneurs through the MSU Technology Transfer Office.



How much bicarbonate input per unit output? It sounds likely to help get more yeild for the same amount of area, like higher efficiency solar panels, so it should have benefits for algae like lowering the balance of system costs...if the amount of bicarbonate required is small enough.

I thought algae were usually skim harvested, removing a portion of the algae and leaving the rest as seeds, as it were. Doees that violate the assumption that there is one timeline for the algae in the pond/ractor?


What great research! "Double the yield" sounds nice.


I wonder how they are going to claim rights to sodium bicarbonate? Sounds promising though.


This makes me wonder what the state of knowledge is about algae. I would say there is quite a bit, but how many would have said this would be the case before they showed it?

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