Sunday, 31 March 2013

Teen Scientist’s Amazing breakthrough

A 17-year-old high school senior Sarah Volz may have the answer to a question that’s stumped the largest oil companies in the world: How do you make algae biofuels financially viable so they can replace petroleum-based fuels at the gas station? Volz, the winner of the 2013 National Intel Science Talent Search, may be on track to solve this problem. She has built the lab under her loft bed in her parents’ Colorado Springs, Colorado, home.

In her research she developed a process of artificial selection where she killed off algae with low levels of acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACCase), an enzyme crucial to lipid synthesis. Left behind in the beakers were an efficient bunch of high yield algae, which she discovered produced a significant increase in lipid production.

The world’s largest oil companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars and years of research looking for ways to make algae biofuel cost effective, but they’ve been unable to develop predictable, high yield algae that would make it financially viable.

Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil Corporation said that he believes we’re still at least 25 years away from filling our diesel engines with algae biofuel because scientists haven’t been able to develop strains of algae that produce enough raw fuel, among other technical issues. Thanks to Volz we may be able to shave some of those years off of Tillerson’s prediction. 

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