CWI starts project on bacterial biofuel

Publication date: 10-11-2011

The Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam has started a new research project on biosolar cells in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam (UvA), VU University Amsterdam (VU) and Wageningen UR. CWI’s research group Life Sciences will develop the mathematical models for optimization of bio-energy production from cyanobacteria. Micro-organisms like cyanobacteria can produce energy from sunlight by means of photosynthesis. This energy can be harvested in the form of biofuel. Unlike conventional solar cells, biosolar cells cannot only produce energy, but they can also store it in molecules like ethanol. It is a highly sustainable way to produce biofuels, as it does not compete for resources with food production.

The researchers at CWI will develop mathematical models to predict the efficiency of the photosynthesis of the cyanobacteria on molecular, cellular and population levels. Predictions on the molecular level can for instance reveal how different genetic modifications can affect the ability of the bacteria to convert solar energy into bioethanol. On the level of population, the models will be able to predict the total energy yield of a certain population of cyanobacteria.

A lot of additional research is needed before biofuels from cyanobacteria are applicable on a large scale. New technologies can increase the energy yield of biosolar cells. Energy research, of which this project is an example, is an important research theme at CWI.


This project is part of the FES-programma ‘ Towards biosolar cells’, a cooperation between six universities in The Netherlands, FOM and NWO Earth- and Life Sciences, with a contribution of the Ministry of Economy, Agriculture and Innovation. The research at CWI is supported by the Netherlands Consortium for System Biology (NCSB) and the Netherlands Genomic Initiative (NGI).

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