Biofuels derived from marine algae are a potential source of sustainable energy that can contribute to future global demands. The realisation of this potential will require manipulation of the fundamental biology of algal physiology to increase the efficiency with which solar energy is ultimately converted into usable biomass. This 'photosynthetic solar energy conversion efficiency' sets an upper limit on the potential of algal-derived biofuels. In this review, we outline photosynthetic molecular targets that could be manipulated to increase the efficiency and yield of algal biofuel production. We also highlight modern 'omic' and high-throughput technologies that might enable identification, selection and improvement of algal cell lines on timescales relevant for achieving significant contributions to future energy solutions.
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