Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can produce oil from water and carbon dioxide with the help of light.
This is shown by a recent study by the University of Bonn, which has found an enzyme called acyltransferase in the blue-green algae allows cyanobacteria to produce oil in small quantities.
It also claims unlike oil plants such as rapeseed, cyanobacteria do not need arable land to grow – this may make them suitable for deserts, for example, where they can be used to produce oils for car engines without competing with food crops.
The microorganisms could thus make a contribution to climate protection – it is estimated that without them the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be twice as high.
Dr. Peter Dörmann, Biologist Professor from the Institute of Molecular Physiology and Biotechnology of Plants at the University of Bonn, said: “This was a complete surprise, there are indeed ancient reports in the literature that cyanobacteria can contain oil, but these have never been verified.”