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Engineering photosynthesis for sustainable food, fuels and chemicals

Project Member(s): Ralph, P.

Funding or Partner Organisation: Science and Industry Endowment Fund (Science and Industry Endowment Fund - SIEF John Stocker Postdoctoral Fellowship)

Start year: 2016

Summary: By 2050, an increase in the human population to over 9 billion people and continued global economic growth, will necessitate 70% more food, 50% more fuel, 50% more fresh water and CO2 emissions cuts of 80% to maintain political, social, fuel and climate security. It is therefore critical to fast-track the development of `commercial-ready┬┐ CO2 neutral food and fuel systems that do not put added pressure on farmlands and freshwater supplies. Microalgae biotechnologies are at the nexus of these challenges (Fig.1). They have the highest solar conversion efficiencies, can use saline or wastewater, and importantly expand photosynthetic capacity onto non-arable land. Another major advantage of algae is that their light-capturing solar interfaces which consists of the photosynthetic machinery, can be coupled to a wide range of downstream biochemistries (Fig.1A). This opens up a range of high-value market opportunities (e.g. the production of vaccine and nutraceuticals in algae, ~$1,000-10,000 kg-1; Hankamer NHMRC Development grant) as well as mid-value products (e.g. bio-plastics, food products, animal feeds, ~$500-1,000 kg-1) on the path to developing low cost fuels ($100/barrel oil).

FOR Codes: Plant Cell and Molecular Biology, Agricultural Marine Biotechnology, Biofuel (Biomass) Energy