One of the most environmentally sustainable ways to produce high-energy density (oils) feed stocks for the production of liquid transportation fuels is from biomass. Photosynthetic carbon capture combined with biomass combustion (point source) and subsequent carbon capture and sequestration has also been proposed in the intergovernmental panel on climate change report as one of the most effective and economical strategies to remediate atmospheric greenhouse gases. To maximize photosynthetic carbon capture efficiency and energy-return-on-investment, we must develop biomass production systems that achieve the greatest yields with the lowest inputs. Numerous studies have demonstrated that microalgae have among the greatest potentials for biomass production. This is in part due to the fact that all alga cells are photoautotrophic, they have active carbon concentrating mechanisms to increase photosynthetic productivity, and all the biomass is harvestable unlike plants. All photosynthetic organisms, however, convert only a fraction of the solar energy they capture into chemical energy (reduced carbon or biomass). To increase aerial carbon capture rates and biomass productivity, it will be necessary to identify the most robust algal strains and increase their biomass production efficiency often by genetic manipulation. We review recent large-scale efforts to identify the best biomass producing strains and metabolic engineering strategies to improve aerial productivity. These strategies include optimization of photosynthetic light-harvesting antenna size to increase energy capture and conversion efficiency and the potential development of advanced molecular breeding techniques. To date, these strategies have resulted in up to twofold increases in biomass productivity.
Journal: Frontiers in energy research