For years, researchers have been trying to find ways to turn algae into biofuel. Popular Science's Clay Dillow reports that researchers at Los Alamos National Lab have come up with a new method for harvesting algae that could reduce the cost of biofuel production — and possibly provide engineers with hours of fun. The team genetically engineered the algae to make it magnetic, Dillow says. They took a gene from a magnetotactic bacterium, and inserted it into the algae. "When expressed, the gene causes the production of magnetic nanoparticles in the algae just as it does in the bacteria. Those in turn can be used to manipulate the algae," he adds. So now to extract the biofuel-producing algae from water and then extract the lipids containing the necessary hydrocarbons from the algae, all that's needed is a magnet.
Oct 21, 2011