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Durham University

Biofuels, Science and Society

Biofuels, Science and Society Research at Durham

Biofuels research at Durham takes place both in the technical and the social and policy areas.

Technical research focusses on several key areas:

  • Microalgae Biofuels (Slabas, Greenwell). Microalgae are fast growing single celled organisms which produce a relatively high lipid yield suitable for conversion to biodiesel and green diesel. Research in our Biology Department focusses on modification of microalgae to produce i) higher lipid yields, ii) better processing routes for lipid extraction, iii) well defined lipid profiles. In the Chemistry Department, research is underway into the conversion of microalgae lipids into useful chemical compounds for fuels, lubricants and other uses.


  • Cellulosic Crops (Lindsey). In the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, the Centre for Crop Improvement Technology is applying basic techniques of plant molecular biology and biochemistry to develop new crops that have enhanced yields through improved biomass, starch and oil accumulation and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses.


  • Cross-disciplinary Links. We are currently investigating aspects of biofuel organism intellectual property (Adcock, Law Department) and social pressures on biofuel policy (Bell, Anthropology; Bulkeley, Geography; Stone, Business School; Greenwell, Chemistry).


Social and policy research areas include:

  • Low Carbon and Resilient Communities (Bell,. Bulkeley)


  • Risk and Value Benefits (Covey). Research looks at how best to communicate information about risks and benefits to either improve the quality of people's decision making or change their attitudes and behavious.


  • Energy Systems in Transition (Bell, Bulkeley)


  • The Future of biofuels for Transport (Adcock). In recent years there has been growing interest in the potential for biofuels, especially for transport. Research primarily looks into the key policy areas such as energy security, economic development and the environment that are driving this interest. This takes the form of an analysis of individual policies within a particular area as well as assessing policy coherence between different areas. The research is looking at the current regulatory regime as well as any proposed regulations based on developing policy considerations. In addition, the research also involves a study of the possible impact of the availability and exercise of intellectual property rights on the research and development of biofuels.