Botryococcus braunii an unusual hydrocarbon-producing alga

  • Fred R. Wolf


The colonial green algaBotryococcus braunii has been proposed as a source of renewable liquid fuel principally because of its ability to accumulate large quantities of hydrocarbon and form prodigious natural blooms. A curious feature of the alga is that the type of hydrocarbon produced is apparently related to physiological status. Active state colonies produce unbranched olefins (largely C27:2, C29:2, C29:3, and C31:2) that have been reported to comprise up to 32% of the dry weight. In contrast, resting state colonies produce unusual branched olefins (general formula C n H2n−10;n=30–37) that appear to be of terpenoid origin. This “botryococcene fraction” has been shown to comprise from 27 to 86% of the dry weight in natural collections.

Although these and other considerations may argue on behalf of large-scale cultivation, several problems require further investigation. For example, little is known about bloom formation and maintenance, growth and physiology of resting state colonies, or the mechanism of physiological interconversion. There is also a need to acquire and investigate new isolates, for much experimental work has utilized a handful of active-state isolates long entrained to laboratory culture. Furthermore, currently available data suggest that the conditions required to expedite the alga's typically sluggish growth would increase production costs and likely engender the growth of more competitive phytoplankton.

Present considerations do not point optimistically to the widespread use ofBotryococcus as a renewable fuel source, although a long-range potential for the production of specific industrial feedstocks may exist.

Index Entries

Algae, hydrocarbon production by algae, oil production by Botryococcus braunii, as a renewable hydrocarbon source Botryococcus braunii, as a renewable liquid fueld source Botryococcus braunii, hydrocarbon production by Botryococcus braunii, oil production by hydrocarbon biosynthesis hydrocarbon biomass 


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Copyright information

© the Humana Press Inc 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred R. Wolf
    • 1
  1. 1.Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Laboratory of Chemical BiodynamicsUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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