Fuel from slime

Image credit: Brent Peyton
Date:31 December 2008 Tags:,

US Department of Energy is intent on finding new fuel sources.

Intent on finding new fuel sources, the US Department of Energy has awarded Montana State University and Utah State University a three-year, R9 million grant to study the oil produced by algae, which could be a renewable source of biodiesel. Says Professor Brent Peyton, principal investigator: “It’s been known for 20 years that algae could produce lipids, but it really took the most recent spike in fuel prices to make getting fuel from algae an option.” Almost all algae contain some oil, but the algae that Peyton and his fellow researchers are interested in are 30 to 50 per cent oil by weight. This oil can be harvested and converted into biofuels in much the same way oil is harvested from crops such as camelina and canola. Once the researchers find a candidate species, they will grow large numbers of the algae in a “raceway” bioreactor at Utah State. This 38 000-litre, climate-controlled water tank has machinery that keeps the algae gently moving so that they can grow more efficiently. Researchers intend to grow algae in this 38 000-litre test facility in Logan, Utah.

Engineering an airway A transplant recipient’s own stem cells have been used in combination with a donor’s trachea to replace a TB-diseased, collapsed windpipe. According to the Lancet, the gravely ill recipient – a 30-year-old woman – now lives a normal life, with no immunosuppressant drugs needed. Starting with a 7 cm segment of a brain haemorrhage victim’s trachea, a team from the universities of Barcelona, Bristol, Padua and Milan stripped out the donor cells. Stem cells from the 30-yearold patient’s bone marrow were used to reseed this “bronchial scaffold”.