French researchers discover enzyme that allows microalgae to produce hydrocarbons

September 6, 2017 |

In France, an international team has discovered an enzyme which allows microalgae to convert some of their fatty acids into hydrocarbons using light. This enzyme, which has been named “FAP” (Fatty Acid Photodecarboxylase), is of an extremely rare type, as only four enzymes powered by light have been identified to date.

Chlorella is a single-cell freshwater alga belonging to a type of microalgae which are cultivated on an industrial scale and have potential for the production of energy-rich molecules. Researchers at the CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission), the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), the ESRF, INSERM (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) and the Universities of Aix-Marseille, Grenoble Alps and Paris-Sud have discovered an enzyme in this algae which allows it to convert some of its constituent fatty acids into hydrocarbons using light energy only. The researchers believe that this is a major advance in the identification of these kind of biological mechanisms and opens up a new option for the synthesis of hydrocarbons by micro-organisms on an industrial scale.

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