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'Pharmaceutical' approach boosts oil production from algae

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Taking an approach similar to that used for discovering new therapeutic drugs, chemists at the University of California, Davis, have found several compounds that can boost oil production by green microscopic algae, a potential source of biodiesel and other "green" fuels. The work appears online in the journal Chemical Biology.

Microalgae are single-celled organisms that, like green plants, use photosynthesis to capture carbon dioxide and turn it into complex compounds, including oils and lipids. Marine algae species can be raised in saltwater ponds and so do not compete with food crops for land or fresh water.

Among the promising compounds were common antioxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate, found in green tea, and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a common food preservative.

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