Being a Unicellular Organism

Project research

Cosmo Niklas Schüppel


Euglina Gracilis and Bio-fuels

I started to research the Euglena gracilis, because I was interested in its reaction to sound. After I found no research on the topic, I went into its reaction to electromagnetic fields. I found some papers, one very interesting one on the effect of EM fields on the movement of E. gracilis. This topic intrigued me, but around that time I stumbled across many studies, that work in the field of Biofuel and how it can be produced using E. gracilis.

Bio-fuel, or in this case bio-diesel, is a “ clean“ alternative to the commonly used fossil fuels (gasoline, diesel, kerosene), because it is biodegradable and renewable. There is the possibility and hope, that it could replace fossil fuel one day. The topic of fossil fuels is becoming more and more relevant. In times where supplies are shrinking, demands are rising and nature is getting destroyed in the process, the need for a new source of power is as more grand than ever. Seeing the importance of this topic and the big possibility in using E. Gracilis, naturally I had to go deeper into the topic, even though my lack of biochemistry-knowledge would not help the research.

In theory

Simplified the creation of bio-diesel with E. gracilis functions as follows. E. Gracilis is grown in a medium with an aerobic environment and sunlight. If these cells are now transferred into a dark, warm and anaerobic surrounding, the E. gracilis will start to produce Wax Ester. Wax Esters (WE) are fatty acids and fatty alcohols. WE can then be converted into bio-fuel. This process is called fermentation. If cells deprived of nitrogen are incubated under the dark anaerobic conditions, their fermentation of WE is 70-fold higher then of nitrogen-replete cells. The amount of wax esters produced is, depending on the study, medium and other factors in the experiments, about 600-850mg/100ml (6g/l).

In practise

As simple as the theory might sound, in reality I am finding more and more obstacles. The deeper I dive into the subject matter, the more things seem to stand in my way. The main two things being the lack of ‚professional' equipment available to me and even more problematic, my lack of knowledge in biochemistry.

In conclusion

Even though I get quite lost in the science lingo of the studies. Even though my not-understanding, my constant googling of back-round-knowledge, even though my amateur attempt to tackle a topic that the top of science is working on, even though my chances of really creating my own bio-fuels are quite small, I would like to go deeper into the subject matter. This topic holds such a controversy and such possibilities that is very important to me to work on it. It is a topic, that is perfectly reflecting the feeling of our time. It is a hope for a clean future. It is politically, economically, socially and environmentally too important to not be worked on in an artistic context.


Frontiers in Microbiology: Succinate and Lactate Production from Euglena gracilis during Dark, Anaerobic Conditions [1]

Frontiers in Microbiology: Bioproducts From Euglena gracilis: Synthesis and Applications [2]

Yoshiki Tani, Masakazu Okumura & Shigeru Li (1987) Liquid Wax Ester production by Euglena gracilis [3]

Hiroshi Inui, Kazataka Miyatake, Yoshihisa Nakano & Shozaburo Kitaoka (1982) Wax Ester fermentation in Euglina gracilis [4]

Anearobiosis using candle jar [5]I