Modified Algae for Increased Productivity and Efficiency

Carbon Capture Technology

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have successfully engineered a eukaryotic algae with an exogenous protein. This protein is a transporter that allows the algae to utilize CO2 more efficiently, and thus have an increased photosynthetic capability of more than 600%. The algae also increased 20% biomass productivity on average.

 

Background

Algaculture and algae products is being looked to as a solution to many global challenges, such as sustainable energy, reducing carbon footprints and food security. Algae may be a valuable source for carbon-neutral fuels, feed and nutrient delivery for agriculture and aquaculture industries, and high-protein food products for human consumption. (2)

Large scale algal production, however, is not yet fully optimized. Algae, as they are grown in current conditions in bioreactors, result in carbon limited photosynthetic growth. Without extensive and expensive sparging to add the carbon dioxide necessary and remove the oxygen produced, the algae cannot grow in solution efficiently (1). Most of this CO2 removed from the system is lost to the atmosphere and the process results in significant costs and greenhouse gas emission associated with algae cultivation. However, CO2 rapidly equilibrates to bicarbonate (HCO3-) in solution.

Overview

Taking advantage of the natural equilibrium of carbon dioxide to bicarbonate in solution, the expression of an exogenous protein in the algae allows for algal cells to access the dissolved CO2 species already in the production system solution. Thus, this algae utilizes more accessible carbon from growth media and results in enhanced carbon capture and a more efficient production process, including significantly higher rates of photosynthesis and growth. The algae then can utilize the carbon dioxide effectively and uses less energy, due to reduced sparging. Thus, algae with a this protein can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and are a greener energy solution than algae that do not.

Specific genetic material and methods of incorporating them are proprietary. For more details, please contact our office!

Benefits

  • Six-fold (600%) increase in photosynthetic activity compared to wild-type algae
  • 29% increased growth rate of modified algae compared to wild-type algae
  • Enhanced carbon fixation and increased gas exchange efficiency by recycling CO2
  • On average 20% increase in biomass
  • Increases uptake of COfrom the algae growth media, resulting in time and cost savings

Applications

  • Six-fold (600%) increase in photosynthetic activity compared to wild-type algae
  • 29% increased growth rate of modified algae compared to wild-type algae
  • Enhanced carbon fixation and increased gas exchange efficiency by recycling CO2
  • On average 20% increase in biomass
  • Increases uptake of COfrom the algae growth media, resulting in time and cost savings

Publications

Peers, et al (2020). “A chlorophyte alga utilizes alternative electron transport for primary photoprotection.” Plant Physiology. https://doi.org/10.1104/pp.20.00373

References

(1) “Gas Sparging.” Chemical Engineering, 1 Sept. 2012, https://www.chemengonline.com/gas-sparging/?printmode=1.

(2) Kite-Powell, Jennifer. “See How Algae Could Change Our World.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 18 June 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferhicks/2018/06/15/see-how-algae-could-change-our-world/?sh=3ac432673e46.

Last Updated: July 2023
Photobioreactor Algae
Opportunity

Available for Licensing
TRL: 4

Inventors

Graham Peers
Tessema Kassaw

Reference Number
2021-068
Licensing Manager

Jessy McGowan
Jessy.McGowan@colostate.edu
970-491-7100