Researchers at Texas A&M AgriLife are using artificial intelligence (AI) to set a new world record for creating algae as a dependable, economic source for biofuel that can be employed as an alternative fuel source for jet aircraft and other transportation requirements. Joshua Yuan, Ph.D., AgriLife Research scientist, professor and chair of Synthetic Biology and Renewable Products in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, is directing the study. The team's findings have been reported in the January issue of Nature Communications. Ongoing research is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Fossil Energy Office. The study is also being financially supported by a gift from Dr. John '90 and Sally '92 Hood, who recently met with Yuan to talk about his biofuels research program.
Algae are a varied category of aquatic plant-like creatures. Phytoplankton is a term used to describe oceanic algae. These basic creatures generate energy from sunlight through photosynthesis, which allows them to manufacture carbohydrates, oils, and proteins. These can then be processed to produce a third-generation biofuel. Biofuel is any fuel derived from living things or living things' waste products (like fecal matter or urine).
Modern day vegetation may have evolved from water-based algae that colonised the land by'piggybacking' on fungi, exchanging both nutrients and gases. Algae are known to naturally exist in various symbiotic relationships alongside fungi. Yet for the first time researchers have shown that algae can not only enter into mutually-beneficial relationships with fungi but can even end up living inside them. Green algae, thought the ancestors of plants, colonised the land over 500 million years ago -- but exactly how this difficult transition occurred had been unclear. Modern day vegetation may have evolved from water-based algae that colonised the land by'piggybacking' on fungi, beneficially exchanging both nutrients and gases.
A bioreactor has been flown to the International Space Station (ISS) to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen using algae. The lives of the astronauts on-board the ISS will not hinge on it working properly as it is an experiment to see if the concept is viable for long-duration spaceflight. It is hoped one day it will be part of a'closed-loop' system that can sustain missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. Current trips are limited by what can be carried on rockets but the potential for a complete system would open up more opportunities for space travel. A bioreactor (pictured) has been flown to the International Space Station (ISS) to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen using algae.
In Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists are using artificial intelligence to set a new world record for producing algae as a reliable, economic source for biofuel that can be used as an alternative fuel source for jet aircraft and other transportation needs. Joshua Yuan, AgriLife Research scientist, professor and chair of Synthetic Biology and Renewable Products in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, is leading the research project. "The commercialization of algal biofuel has been hindered by the relatively low yield and high harvesting cost," Yuan said. "The limited light penetration and poor cultivation dynamics both contributed to the low yield." Overcoming these challenges could enable viable algal biofuels to reduce carbon emissions, mitigate climate change, alleviate petroleum dependency and transform the bioeconomy, Yuan said.