Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Synthetic Biology, Green Algae and Seaweed Provide Promise for Sustainable Fuels

Published: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Sir Mark Walport, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, has announced major funding towards sustainable fuels during a visit to India.

Over £4M of UK funding, with matched resource from India, has been awarded to four research projects that bring together expertise in sustainable bioenergy and biofuels from both countries.

The funding is a result of the Sustainable Bioenergy and Biofuels (SuBB) initiative funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research council (BBSRC) in the UK and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in India.

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "This funding has enabled cross-disciplinary projects that underpin the generation and implementation of sustainable, advanced, bioenergy in order to address the urgent need to find alternatives to fossil fuels."

The announcement was made as a part of Sir Mark Walport's keynote address during RCUK India's fifth anniversary celebrations in New Delhi this week. These new projects form a part of the £150M strong UK-India research portfolio that RCUK India has facilitated since 2008.

Funded projects

The University of Nottingham and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology will collaborate to engineer enzymes, bacteria and bioconversion processes that will help to produce advanced biofuels from waste rice straw. The project, led by Professor Nigel Minton and Dr Syed Shams Yazdani, will receive £1.4M from BBSRC with matched resources from DBT.

Professor Nigel Minton said: "Rice is the third biggest crop grown in the world and the major staple crop for most tropical nations. Rice straw, left over from rice harvests in large quantities, doesn't have many agricultural uses and so hundreds of millions of tons is burned to dispose of it each year. This is wasteful and polluting, particularly if rice straw could be used to create biofuels."

The team hope to use synthetic biology to design bacterial strains capable of converting the straw into biofuel, after they have develop an enzyme cocktail optimised for deconstructing rice straw into the necessary raw materials for biofuel production.

In another project, Durham University and the Institute of Chemical Technology will work together in a bid to produce biofuel from seaweed. Green macroalgae, or seaweeds, are a common sight on UK shorelines and have astonishing growth rates. Dr John Bothwell and Prof Arvind M. Lali hope to take advantage of this to create sustainable energy by converting seaweeds into fuel. The project will receive £1M from BBSRC with matched resources from DBT.

Dr John Bothwell: "Using standard crop-breeding techniques, we hope to produce economically productive seaweed strains that can be grown safely and sustainably around the UK's coastline. We will also look at harnessing the natural processes by which seaweeds are broken down in order to make use of enzymes and microbes that are capable of converting the seaweed biomass into advanced biofuels."

The University of Sheffield and Bharathidasan University will investigate the possibility of using smaller water dwelling 'microalgae' to convert solar energy and carbon dioxide into the precursors of fuel. While making use of microalgae's natural abilities for industrial purposes has proven elusive, Dr Seetharaman Vaidyanathan and Prof Lakshmanan Uma believe that a greater understanding of their metabolism could help.

Dr Seetharaman Vaidyanathan said: "Development of sustainable processes that utilise microalgae to convert solar energy and carbon dioxide to biofuel precursors is attractive but has not been successful in making a difference to the energy economy so far.

"We believe that a greater understanding of microalgae metabolism, derived through a systems approach, will make a difference to this scenario and enable development of sustainable processes for bio-energy generation. We aim to combine UK and Indian facilities and expertise to carry out detailed systems level characterisation on selected isolates that will lead to manipulation of microalgae metabolism for enhanced productivities of biofuel precursors, through informed process optimisations and strain developments."

Bharathidasan University have already established a repository of marine microalgae which has over 500 microalgae isolates in its collection for investigation. The project will receive £1.2M from BBSRC with matched resources from DBT.

Dr Carole Llewellyn from Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Dr N Thajuddin of Bharathidasan University will also look at microalgae thanks to £700k from BBSRC and matched resources from DBT. This time the researchers will look at whole communities of microalgae and bacteria.

Currently, producing biofuel from microalgae would be too costly requiring many inputs, such as nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients to feed the microalgae. However, industrial wastewater could provide a solution as it has these nutrients in abundance already. In wastewater, several species of algae can be found together with a complement of inherent bacteria; these associated bacteria provide benefits in terms of helping to producing higher yields of the raw materials for biofuel.

Dr Carole Llewellyn explains: "We want to understand the complex and dynamic systems and interactions in wastewater communities. Currently we have a poor understanding on the composition, development, function and interactions occurring within these microalgae and bacteria communities. This funding will help us find out what is there, how they compare and what are they doing. This will be important if we want to produce biofuel from them as the quantity and quality that can be made will be related directly to the growth and the composition of the communities, which in turn is dependent on interactions within it."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Genome-Editing Position Statement
A group of leading UK research organisations has today issued an initial joint statement in support of the continued use of CRISPR-Cas9 and other genome-editing techniques in preclinical research.
Monday, September 07, 2015
Expanding the DNA Alphabet: 'Extra' DNA Base Found to be Stable in Mammals
A rare DNA base, previously thought to be a temporary modification, has been shown to be stable in mammalian DNA, suggesting that it plays a key role in cellular function.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Global Food Security (GFS) Develops New Funding Programme
New programme of research to tackle resilience of the food system.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
£4M to Fund Important Food Crops from BBSRC and NERC
Research projects designed with industry partners to maximize impact.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
Controlling Leaf Blotch Disease In Wheat
Scientists have found a genetic mechanism that could stop the spread of a "devastating" disease threatening wheat crops.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Rising Temperatures Predicted to Lower Wheat Yields
An international consortium of researchers has used big data sets to predict the effects climate change on global wheat yields.
Friday, December 26, 2014
New Test For Detecting Horse Meat
New test compares differences in chemical compositions of the fat found in meats.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
UK And India Collaborate On Future-Proof Crops
Drought-tolerant tomatoes, improved wheat and grass pea could provide crops for the future.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Drugs Used to Treat Lung Disease Work With the Body Clock
Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered why medication to treat asthma and pneumonia can become ineffective.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Researchers Use ‘Big Data’ Approach to Map the Relationships Between Human and Animal Diseases
EID2 database used to prevent and tackle disease outbreaks around the globe.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
TGAC at the Forefront of Next Generation Sequencing Capability
The Genome Analysis Centre adds two Illumina HiSeq 2500 machines to its platform suite.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
UK Diet and Health Research Awarded £4M
Funding awarded to six projects investigating diet and health to enable the food and drink industry to meet the needs of UK consumers.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Better Understanding of Disease Resistance Genes in Crops
Effector-triggered defence concept describes how plants protect themselves against the apoplast.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Investment Provides Access to the World’s Most Advanced Crystallography Technology
The UK community will benefit thanks to a £5.64M investment from UK research funders.
Tuesday, June 03, 2014
Public-private Research Partnership to Support Sustainable Agricultural Systems
The partnership will support projects that will help provide solutions to key challenges affecting the sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos