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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biology and Microbiology

First Advisor

Ruanbao Zhou


In the last few decades, concerns over global climate change, energy security, and environmental pollution have been rising. To overcome these challenges, biofuel production from starch and cellulosic crops have given hope in mitigating the human carbon footprint, while decreasing our consumption of fossil fuels. Photosynthetic organisms including plants, algae, and cyanobacteria utilize light energy to convert CO2 into fixed carbon, which is stored as chemical energy in their biomass. To unlock the energy from plant biomass requires long growing seasons, harvesting, industrial processing, and competition with food crops for land use. Photosynthetic microorganisms hold a distinct advantage in biofuel production over plants, given their faster growth rates, higher photosynthetic efficiencies, and simpler nutrient requirements. Engineered cyanobacteria with re-wired metabolic pathways have recently been designed through genetic engineering, and they possess the unique ability to synthesize new chemicals and biofuels, which are secreted from their cells. Systems that utilize photosynthetic microbes for biofuel production are still in their infancy, and further studies into the metabolic profiling and engineering of cyanobacteria need to be conducted to optimize energy efficiency for economic production and commercial deployment. Here, we review current alternative energy strategies, including cyanobacterial-based biofuels, and introduce research regarding the engineering of cyanobacteria to produce cyclic, long-chained hydrocarbons.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Biomass energy
Carbon cycle (Biogeochemistry)


Includes bibliographical references (pages 68-76)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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