»The alga we investigated synthesizes hydrocarbons that have the same properties as petroleum«


Because of the fresh ocean breezes and far horizons, Naomi Harada prefers to conduct field research out on the high seas. She already took part in an expedition to the equatorial Pacific when she was studying oceanography. On this expedition she was especially fascinated by the oceanic depths. “I found it very moving and motivating when we extracted a one-hundred-thousand-year-old sediment core from the ocean floor.” This was followed by further expeditions and a doctoral degree—research into the inner workings of the seas became the key topic of her life.


The history of science is full of discoveries that researchers made while they were investigating something else. This also happened to Harada. In 2013 she studied the impact that climate change was having on plankton in the Arctic Ocean. But when she took a magnifying glass to look at a species of algae known as Dicrateria rotunda, she saw something that surprised her: “The alga can synthesize special hydrocarbons that have the same properties as petroleum,” she says. This enables it to serve as a source of biofuels, which can help to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Photo: private


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