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CEA Techno Autumn issue releaseed

25/10/2012

Engines go green

Technological research at the service of disability

Towards the third generation of biofuels

The greenhouse effect, the depletion of natural resources and the fluctuations in oil prices are matters of serious concern worldwide today. To address these major energetic and environmental issues, the CEA participates in the national public effort for the development of new, renewable energy technologies, which do not generate greenhouse gas emissions, including biofuels. Today, these technologies are globally regarded as a promising field and attract the interest of scientific, political and economic stakeholders. In parallel to the technological research conducted, the CEA conducts technological research on second generation biofuels based on the non-food part of plants (straw, stalks, wood, etc.), that will be used in the development of demonstrators or pre-industrial prototypes.

At the same time the teams of the Life Sciences Division at CEA-Grenoble, Cadarache and Evry, also conduct basic research on thirdgeneration biofuels produced by micro-organisms. The main goal is to free up land that is now dedicated to the cultivation of biomass. This research area has been clearly stipulated in the contract of objectives and performance between the French Government and the CEA. The studies will particularly focus on the selection and domestication of microalgae for the production of renewable energy (hydrogen, biodiesel, etc.). The HélioBiotec platform located at the CEA Cadarache and founded in 2011 is dedicated to the identification of genes that could be used to direct the metabolism of these microorganisms, with the aim to produce molecules with a high energy content (hydrogen, lipids) by exploiting the knowledge gained on their biological mechanisms. As a sign of its dynamism, HélioBiotec begins to build relationships abroad, particularly in the United States.

Thus, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recently signed a partnership agreement with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, Boulder Colorado/ USA). The goal is to foster scientific exchange and collaboration between the two laboratories in the field of biofuel production from microalgae. The HélioBiotec research for biotechnology and bioenergy is the only of its kind in France. Indeed, it combines basic and applied research to provide a comprehensive offer over the entire production chain. Its goal is completely aligned to that of the CEA in this area, that is, to become internationally recognized as a center of excellence in biotechnological research for the development of third generation biofuels.