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Carbon Dioxide Consuming Algae
before March 9, 2006


Scientists and other people, who care about our environment, worry about the growing concentration of carbon dioxide in the air of our planet. They are afraid of global warming and demand to reduce carbon dioxide industrial emission to the atmosphere. But where should it go then? RAS Plant Physiology Institute and Lomonosov Fine Chemical Technology Academy scientists suggest using flue gas carbon dioxide to grow unicellular algae, chlorella for example, with certain chemical composition. These algae can further be used in production of substances of commercial interest.

Carbon dioxide is not only a greenhouse gas. Its concentration in the atmosphere influences plant photosynthetic activity, and scientists wonder what would this activity be, if climate changes. Current CO2 concentration (0,03%) maintains low photosynthetic activity: the optimal concentration of this gas varies depending on the plant, but generally it should be 60-70 times higher than it is now. Too high carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is not good too. If CO2 share reaches 10-25%, photosynthesis slows down and can even stop.

But there are plants, unicellular algae, for example, that are tolerant to high concentrations of carbon dioxide. Scientists from different countries search for these plants and study them. Russian biologists have examined RAS Timiryazev Plant Physiology Institute’s microalgae collection and have recently discovered two strains, Chlorella vulgaris and Galdieria partita, that are able to grow in the atmosphere containing 100% of carbon dioxide.

These microalgae have been tested in the laboratory under mild conditions – 50% of carbon dioxide. Algae turned to grow actively, but their biochemical composition was different from the one they usually have – the cells contained less protein, more starch and unusual lipids.

Biochemical composition changes draw biotechnologists’ attention. High carbon dioxide concentration is a stress for the cell. Under such conditions different species are able to produce and accumulate nonspecific substances, e.g. carotenoids, some carbohydrates and fatty acids. That’s why it is important to study unicellular algae metabolism under high CO2 concentration conditions, and soon there industrial emissions of CO2 will disappear, because microalgae will utilize it to grow their biomass with certain biochemical composition.

What will further research show us?

Tags: ecology     

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