The BMBF supports research on producing ethanol cyanobacteria

Over the next three years, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will support of nearly one million euros, research on the production of bioethanol with cyanobacteria, led by the Institute of Biology at the Humboldt University (Berlin).

The ethanol is already widespread in many countries from plant biomass to be used, for example, as fuel. However, more and more voices have reservations about the use of crops like sugar beet, wheat or rye, for the production of biofuels, mainly because of the shortage and rising food prices it might entail. For example, cyanobacteria are an attractive option, so far as the production of biomass cyanobacteria can be done in a limited space, including in regions where the cultivation of industrial plants is not an option.

The works done at the Humboldt University are part of a broader project that also involves groups of researchers from the Universities of Giessen and Freiburg. The whole work is coordinated by the biochemist Dan Kramer of the Berlin Company Cyano Biofuels GmbH. This young company was founded in 2007 by researchers at the Institute of Biology at the Humboldt University and has since grown rapidly. Its work focuses on the development and optimization of the use of cyanobacteria for biofuel production environmentally friendly.

According to Prof. Thomas Börner, project manager and geneticist at the Humboldt University, cyanobacteria are particularly interesting because of their ability to use sunlight for photosynthesis production of energy-rich molecules, as do plants. Normally, cyanobacteria produce only traces of ethanol. The geneticists at the university, in collaboration with biochemists of the Institute of Biology, colleagues of theoretical biology and other partners, to reach a better understanding of the energy metabolism of molecules in cyanobacteria and optimize targeted To increase significantly the production of bioethanol of these microorganisms.


Cyanobacteria are aquatic and photosynthetic, that is, they live in the water, and can manufacture their own food. Cyanobacteria form oxigen during photosynthesis. It is thought that it was these bacteria that were responsible for the first appearance of significant amounts of oxigen on earth about 2.3 billion years ago. Today, many different forms and shapes of cyanobacteria are known. In environmental samples cyanobacteria are easily recognized by light microsopy.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, blue-green bacteria or Cyanophyta, is a phylum of bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis. They are a significant component of the marine nitrogen cycle and an important primary producer in many areas of the ocean, but are also found on land.

Because they are bacteria, they are quite small and usually unicellular, though they often grow in colonies large enough to see. They have the distinction of being the oldest known fossils, more than 3.5 billion years old, in fact! It may surprise you then to know that the cyanobacteria are still around; they are one of the largest and most important groups of bacteria on earth.

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