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Exploding Algae

If algae produce oil they can't consume, what happens
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When algae are grown for the purpose of extracting oil from them, the last step before they're harvested is to put them in a dark tank for several days. During that time, they convert much of their starches and sugars into oil.

This of course results in more oil for extraction, if that's the next step, but what happens if the algae are then released back into the sunlight? Presumably, the algae digests it's oil reserves, turning them back into sugars and starches.

What if we can identify the enzyme used to digest the oil, and deactivate the gene which produces that enzyme? The algae, going back to the sunlight, will not be able to digest the oil it's made, resulting in obese algae. The algae will, however, still resume photosynthesis, and produce more sugars and starches.

After several cycles of sunlight and darkness, the algae cell should be so full of oil (which it can't use) that it will burst, releasing its oil into the surrounding water, after which simple filtering should be able to harvest it.

goldbb, Jun 01 2009


       burst or gum up the biological machinery? either way it is death for the cell. Would lipid quality be reduced by forcing production?
wjt, Jun 02 2009

       Presumably, if the ratio of volume to surface area gets high enough, the cell will become fragile... hopefully fragile enough that it can be burst by agitation (putting the algae/water mix in a blender).   

       Gumming up the cellular machinery is probably also possible, but hopefully this won't happen.   

       If the goal is oil for fuel, then quality probably isn't going to be affected. Quantity... maybe, but even if each algae cell produces less oil for a given amount of sunlight and time than normal algae cells, it should still be more productive overall, due to the lower oil extraction cost.
goldbb, Jun 02 2009


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