U project inching closer to creating fuel from algae

A University of Minnesota research project is a step closer to learning how to create fuel from algae.

The project uses two types of bacteria — one converts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into sugars, the other turns the sugars into hydrocarbons similar to gasoline.

Team leader and biochemist Larry Wackett said his team had to figure out how to get the second one to produce more hydrocarbons.

"We're doing some genetic manipulations to get more of their metabolism sort of focused on making these hydrocarbons," Wackett said.

Wackett said it could be a small piece of the quest to replace fossil fuels.

"We're going to be taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making it into fuels, and then we burn the fuel it makes carbon dioxide but at least we're recycling that carbon dioxide," Wackett said. "So environmentally, it's much better."

The university has applied for patents on the process, but it could be years before consumers might see the product in the marketplace.

The project is paid for with a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

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