Algal Biofuels

Rotating view of a cryo-soft X-ray tomography reconstructed cell of the green alga Chromochloris zofingiensis dividing into 16 daughter cells with segmented nucleus (purple), chloroplast (green), mitochondria (red), and lipids (yellow). 
Melissa Roth and Andreas Walter

Microalgae have the potential to become a major source of biofuels and valuable chemicals with minimal environmental impacts. We are investigating two species of green algae (Chromochloris zofingiensis and Auxenochlorella protothecoides) that naturally accumulate high levels of oil as a carbon storage product (and biofuel precursor) while maintaining high growth rates on glucose as a carbon source. Our lab is part of a large team of investigators at UC-Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Colorado School of Mines, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who are interested in developing new platform organisms for biofuel production, and our overarching goal is to engineer high levels of oil production in these algae during photoautotrophic growth. We are using systems biology and gene editing approaches to achieve this goal.

This research is supported by the Genomic Sciences program of DOE-BER and the Community Science Program of the DOE Joint Genome Institute.