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Engineered algae can finally produce enough oil for biofuel


A collaboration between Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil has yielded "a breakthrough" in efforts to create biofuels from algae. Researchers report they have engineered a strain of algae that can produce twice as much fat — essentially oil — but can still grow at its normal rate.

Why it matters: For decades, scientists have tried to produce oil from fast-growing algae to replace or supplement fossil fuels. One challenge that this study appears to have overcome using genetic engineering has been that algae require a lot of nutrients to grow quickly but produce more fat when they are starved of the same nutrients. That tradeoff limits how much biofuel can be made overall.