Scientists are working on a project to engineer algae for producing the ‘wonder material’ nanocellulose, which would present new opportunties in manufacturing, medicine, construction, and more.
Their work includes genes from the family of bacteria that produce vinegar, Kombucha tea and nata de coco. A report on advances in getting those genes to produce fully-functional nanocellulose was part of a meeting at the American Chemical Society. R. Malcolm Brown, Jr., Ph.D., said:
If we can complete the final steps, we will have accomplished one of the most important potential agricultural transformations ever. We will have plants that produce nanocellulose abundantly and inexpensively. It can become the raw material for sustainable production of biofuels and many other products. While producing nanocellulose, the algae will absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas linked to global warming.
Nanocellulose-based materials can be stronger than steel and stiffer than Kevlar, with potential applications such as lightweight armor, ballistic glass, wound dressings, and scaffolds for growing replacement organs for transplantation.