Diatoms: A fossil fuel of the future

Orly Levitan, Jorge Dinamarca, Gal Hochman, Paul G. Falkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Long-term global climate change, caused by burning petroleum and other fossil fuels, has motivated an urgent need to develop renewable, carbon-neutral, economically viable alternatives to displace petroleum using existing infrastructure. Algal feedstocks are promising candidate replacements as a 'drop-in' fuel. Here, we focus on a specific algal taxon, diatoms, to become the fossil fuel of the future. We summarize past attempts to obtain suitable diatom strains, propose future directions for their genetic manipulation, and offer biotechnological pathways to improve yield. We calculate that the yields obtained by using diatoms as a production platform are theoretically sufficient to satisfy the total oil consumption of the US, using between 3 and 5% of its land area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-124
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Biotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering


  • Biofuel
  • Biomass
  • Diatoms
  • Energy Return (On) Investment
  • Lipids
  • Productivity

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Diatoms: A fossil fuel of the future'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this