As biofuels continue to present challenges, microalgae are gaining momentum as a biofuel energy crop. In the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, researchers show how a combination of monochromatic red and blue LED illumination on one type of microalga can enhance its growth and increase the biosynthesis of critical components, such as lipids, for microalgae feedstock development. The researchers focused on Dunaliella salina, typically extracted from sea salt fields and found in salt lakes.
Microalgae are a promising source of energy to replace fossil fuels, as they have several advantages over conventional crops used for commercial biodiesel. Microalgae have a shorter lifecycle and they can be developed in environments unfit for agriculture. In the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, researchers developed a methodology to analyze different species to select the best microalgae for use as an energy source by taking into account biological, economic, and environmental aspects.
Scientists examined cell abundances, size, cellular carbon mass, and how photosynthetic cells differ on polymeric and glass substrates over time, exploring nanoparticle generation from plastic like polystyrene and how this might disrupt microalgae. Conservative estimates suggest that about 1 percent of microbial cells in the ocean surface microlayer inhabit plastic debris globally. This mass of cells would not exist without plastic debris in the ocean, and thus, represents a disruption of the proportions of native flora in that habitat.
Researchers have 3D printed coral-inspired structures that are capable of growing dense populations of microscopic algae. The work could lead to the development of compact, more efficient bioreactors for producing algae-based biofuels, as well as new techniques to repair and restore coral reefs.