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      Exploiting diversity and synthetic biology for the production of algal biofuels

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      Nature
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Modern life is intimately linked to the availability of fossil fuels, which continue to meet the world's growing energy needs even though their use drives climate change, exhausts finite reserves and contributes to global political strife. Biofuels made from renewable resources could be a more sustainable alternative, particularly if sourced from organisms, such as algae, that can be farmed without using valuable arable land. Strain development and process engineering are needed to make algal biofuels practical and economically viable.

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          Most cited references72

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          TimeTree: a public knowledge-base of divergence times among organisms.

          Biologists and other scientists routinely need to know times of divergence between species and to construct phylogenies calibrated to time (timetrees). Published studies reporting time estimates from molecular data have been increasing rapidly, but the data have been largely inaccessible to the greater community of scientists because of their complexity. TimeTree brings these data together in a consistent format and uses a hierarchical structure, corresponding to the tree of life, to maximize their utility. Results are presented and summarized, allowing users to quickly determine the range and robustness of time estimates and the degree of consensus from the published literature. TimeTree is available at http://www.timetree.net
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            Microalgae for oil: strain selection, induction of lipid synthesis and outdoor mass cultivation in a low-cost photobioreactor.

            Thirty microalgal strains were screened in the laboratory for their biomass productivity and lipid content. Four strains (two marine and two freshwater), selected because robust, highly productive and with a relatively high lipid content, were cultivated under nitrogen deprivation in 0.6-L bubbled tubes. Only the two marine microalgae accumulated lipid under such conditions. One of them, the eustigmatophyte Nannochloropsis sp. F&M-M24, which attained 60% lipid content after nitrogen starvation, was grown in a 20-L Flat Alveolar Panel photobioreactor to study the influence of irradiance and nutrient (nitrogen or phosphorus) deprivation on fatty acid accumulation. Fatty acid content increased with high irradiances (up to 32.5% of dry biomass) and following both nitrogen and phosphorus deprivation (up to about 50%). To evaluate its lipid production potential under natural sunlight, the strain was grown outdoors in 110-L Green Wall Panel photobioreactors under nutrient sufficient and deficient conditions. Lipid productivity increased from 117 mg/L/day in nutrient sufficient media (with an average biomass productivity of 0.36 g/L/day and 32% lipid content) to 204 mg/L/day (with an average biomass productivity of 0.30 g/L/day and more than 60% final lipid content) in nitrogen deprived media. In a two-phase cultivation process (a nutrient sufficient phase to produce the inoculum followed by a nitrogen deprived phase to boost lipid synthesis) the oil production potential could be projected to be more than 90 kg per hectare per day. This is the first report of an increase of both lipid content and areal lipid productivity attained through nutrient deprivation in an outdoor algal culture. The experiments showed that this marine eustigmatophyte has the potential for an annual production of 20 tons of lipid per hectare in the Mediterranean climate and of more than 30 tons of lipid per hectare in sunny tropical areas.
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              Improving photosynthetic efficiency for greater yield.

              Increasing the yield potential of the major food grain crops has contributed very significantly to a rising food supply over the past 50 years, which has until recently more than kept pace with rising global demand. Whereas improved photosynthetic efficiency has played only a minor role in the remarkable increases in productivity achieved in the last half century, further increases in yield potential will rely in large part on improved photosynthesis. Here we examine inefficiencies in photosynthetic energy transduction in crops from light interception to carbohydrate synthesis, and how classical breeding, systems biology, and synthetic biology are providing new opportunities to develop more productive germplasm. Near-term opportunities include improving the display of leaves in crop canopies to avoid light saturation of individual leaves and further investigation of a photorespiratory bypass that has already improved the productivity of model species. Longer-term opportunities include engineering into plants carboxylases that are better adapted to current and forthcoming CO(2) concentrations, and the use of modeling to guide molecular optimization of resource investment among the components of the photosynthetic apparatus, to maximize carbon gain without increasing crop inputs. Collectively, these changes have the potential to more than double the yield potential of our major crops.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                August 2012
                August 15 2012
                August 2012
                : 488
                : 7411
                : 329-335
                Article
                10.1038/nature11479
                22895338
                243ffc11-9393-4311-83ad-c07bf13adb8e
                © 2012

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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