Algal biofuel and biodiversity

Project ID: 311

Cube proposed by: Xiaoxia Lin

Unit: Engineering

Cycle: MCubed 1.0

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About this project: 
We propose to examine mixed algae cultures for biofuel production, by integrating methods spanning from engineering to ecology and genomics. Algae represent one of the most promising feedstocks for sustainable production of transportation fuels. To date, most research has focused on monocultures of “super-species” for maximum lipid production, which has delivered very limited success due to challenges associated with scaling-up economics. In this project, we hypothesize, based on the ecological theory of “transgressive overyielding,” that certain naturally diverse groups of green algae have evolved to express complementary genes and biological traits that enhance the efficiency and stability of algal biofuel yield beyond what any monoculture can accomplish. Initially, we will focus on identifying promising algae mixed cultures using high-throughput microfluidic co-cultivation and screening. We will make use of an existing extensive algae collection and a recently developed droplet co-cultivation technology. We will also study interactions between algae and associated bacteria.