Meet the algae: diversity, biology and energy

 

Meet the algae Algae - image courtesy of Professor Ray Goldstein, University of Cambridge

Researchers from the University of Cambridge are studying ways to harness algae as a renewable energy source.

Algae are an amazingly varied group of photosynthetic organisms, and – in addition to the well-known seaweeds and green slime on ponds – they are found in habitats as diverse as glacial ice and hot springs.  Using the power of sunlight, and consuming CO2, they make a wide range of exploitable products, including vitamins, pigments, oils and silica nanostructures.  Algae are an ideal renewable energy source because they may grow faster than land plants and can be grown in the sea or on marginal land that is not useful for food crop production.  Yet there are many aspects of basic algal biology where understanding is limited.

“Algae offer considerable potential as a source of bioenergy.  By studying fundamentals of their metabolism and molecular biology and by understanding the fantastic natural variation in the different types of algae, we can harness this potential for energy production,” says Professor Sir David Baulcombe FRS, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge.

Visitors to the exhibit will be introduced to different groups of algae, and will see how they move in their environment, and how algae can harness sunlight to produce hydrogen, electricity or other forms of green energy.

Exhibited by University of Cambridge