"Scientists have created a genetically engineered microbe that turns the algae into low-carbon biofuel, but must make the technique commercially viable
Earlier studies have indicated that large-scale use of seaweed as an energy source could in theory supply the world's needs several times over and the UK government envisages between 560 and 4700 km sq of seaweed farms in its long-term energy planning.
The new microbe research, published today in the leading journal Science, represents a "critical" technological breakthrough, but the challenge of making the approach commercially viable remains.
"Natural seaweed species grow very fast - 10 times faster than normal plants - and are full of sugars, but it has been very difficult to make ethanol by conventional fermentation," said Yannick Lerat, scientific director at Centre d'Etude et de Valorisation des Algues, the algae study centre in France. "So the new work is a really critical step. But scaling up processes using engineered microbes is not always easy. They also need to prove the economics work." (More)