Energy-Dense Hydrocarbons from Eukaryotic Microalgae
Triglycerides oils and biodiesel from various sources can be converted into renewable JP-8 through chemical means. However, the problem with this process is the cost of the triglyceride feedstock. Currently, the only source of this oil is from edible food crops. There is a concerted effort to develop non-edible alternatives, however, the establishment of such crops is hindered by the low value of agricultural (seed cake) and industrial (waste glycerol) co-products. Another critical issue is the fact that what makes an oil suitable for biodiesel production (high ratio of unsaturated fatty acids), makes it less suitable for conversion to JP-8. We have developed a stain of heterotrophic algae that can convert these unrefined seed cake and waste glycerol into high value algae oil for additional biofuel production. We propose to increase the maximal growth temperature of this algal strain so that it can grow robustly at higher temperatures. The reason for this modification is that microbes produce much less unsaturated fatty acids at higher temperature, thereby producing oil that is more suitable for conversion to JP-8. We will alter the thermal growth parameters of this strain using experimental evolution. After producing this strain we will confirm its ability to produce a suitable oil on the lab scale.
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