The effort to produce algae biofuels has been underway for many, many years, though you wouldn't know it given that there are still virtually none being produced at commercial scale. The hype about making "cheap, abundant fuels with nothing but sunlight and water" remains in spite of the reality on the ground.
Sara's work has garnered remarkable results, a eureka of sorts, which, according to Professor Anastasios Melis of UC Berkeley, is quite unique. She has been very clever, becoming an important figure in the algae as biofuel community. She managed to manipulate the cells in the algae in such a way that they yielded an amazing amount of oil. When Sara saw the results, she was sure something was wrong but there wasn't.