The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Toyohashi University of Technology, and the National Institute for Physiological Sciences are the first in the world to produce phytoplankton capable of synthesizing hydrocarbons equivalent to petroleum (saturated hydrocarbons with 10 to 38 carbon atoms). discovered.
While reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an urgent issue, hydrocarbons synthesized by plants and algae are seen as promising biofuels of biological origin that can be an alternative energy source for crude oil.However, the hydrocarbons produced by plants and algae are not a perfect substitute for petroleum because they have a narrow range of carbon atoms and contain unstable unsaturated carbon bonds.
On the other hand, what has been revealed this time is the ability of Dicrateria rotunda (D. rotunda), a type of haptophyte, to synthesize a series of saturated hydrocarbons with 10 to 38 carbon atoms.It can be said that this is the ability to produce hydrocarbons equivalent to gasoline (10 to 15 carbon atoms), diesel oil (16 to 20 carbon atoms), fuel oil (21 or more carbon atoms), etc., and such organisms have been reported in the past. There is no example.Dicrateria is a widespread phytoplankton, not only from the Arctic Ocean strain ARC1, which the Group first discovered this ability, but also from 10 other species of the genus Dicrateria stored in the Microbial Strain Conservation Agency. Since the synthetic ability of this species was confirmed, it was found that it is a common ability of this species.
The ability of the Arctic Ocean strain ARC1 to synthesize saturated hydrocarbons has also been found to increase in the dark and in nitrogen-deficient conditions. The components of the series of saturated hydrocarbons produced by D. rotunda have "quality" comparable to that of petroleum, and are said to be perfect as biofuels, but the "quantity" remains a problem.In the future, it is expected that further elucidation of the physiological role and synthetic pathway of saturated hydrocarbons will lead to the development of practical biofuels.