Aug 212013


“We’re hoping that biofuels made in such an efficient way can eventually replace current petroleum-based fuels”

A fungus and E. coli bacteria have joined forces to turn tough, waste plant material into isobutanol, a biofuel that matches gasoline’s properties better than ethanol.

University of Michigan research team members said the principle also could be used to produce other valuable chemicals such as plastics.

“We’re hoping that biofuels made in such an efficient way can eventually replace current petroleum-based fuels,” said Xiaoxia “Nina” Lin, assistant professor of chemical engineering and leader of the research.

Gallon for gallon, isobutanol gives off 82 percent of the heat energy gasoline provides when burned, compared to ethanol’s 67 percent. Ethanol also has a tendency to absorb water, corroding pipelines and damaging engines, but isobutanol doesn’t mix easily with water. While ethanol serves as a mixer in the gasoline infrastructure today, many researchers argue that isobutanol could be a replacement.

Equally important, this system makes isobutanol from inedible plant materials, so fuel production won’t drive up food costs. Lin’s team used corn stalks and leaves, but their ecosystem should also be able to process other agricultural byproducts and forestry waste.

While much previous research has focused on trying to create a “superbug” that could tackle the whole job of processing waste plant materials into biofuels, Lin and her colleagues argue that a team of microbial specialists can do better.

The fungus Trichoderma reesei is already very good at breaking down tough plant material into sugars. Escherichia coli, meanwhile, is relatively easy for researchers to genetically modify. James Liao’s lab at the University of California-Los Angeles provided E. coli bacteria that had been engineered to convert sugars into isobutanol.

The Lin group put both microbe species into a bioreactor and served up corn stalks and leaves. Colleagues at Michigan State University had pre-treated the roughage to make it easier to digest.

“If you’ve ever had puffed rice cereal, it’s somewhat analogous,” said Jeremy Minty, first author of the paper to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a recent doctoral graduate in Lin’s lab.

The fungi turned the roughage into sugars that fed both microbe species with enough left over to produce isobutanol. The team managed to get 1.88 grams of isobutanol per liter of fluid in the ecosystem, the highest concentration reported to date for turning tough plant materials into biofuels. They also converted a large proportion of the energy locked in the corn stalks and leaves to isobutanol—62 percent of the theoretical maximum.

The harmonious coexistence of the fungi and bacteria, with stable populations, was a key success of the experiment.

“A lot of times, one species will dominate the culture and the other will die off,” Minty said. “This is a common problem when you’re trying to create these systems.”

Convincing the microbes to play nicely pays off.

“You can put everything in one pot,” Lin said. “The capital investment will be much lower, and also the operating cost will be much lower, so hopefully this will make the whole process much more likely to become economically viable.”

Read more . . .


The Latest on: Biofuel
  • ‘Greenwashed oil’ set to win from renewable transport targets, biofuel industry claims
    on December 14, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Biofuel producers in the Visegrad countries plus Lithuania and Bulgaria have warned that a phase-out of biofuels will lead to a phase-in of ‘greenwashed’ fossil fuels under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), as it currently stands in the Council’s ... […]

  • Aviation biofuel - an Engagement for Green Growth
    on December 14, 2017 at 8:14 am

    “Every day, Air France is committed to building the travel experience of the future. We want the experience to be enjoyable, innovative and responsible." At the World Efficiency Fair, Air France today presented an Engagement for Green Growth (ECV) with ... […]

  • General Automation Lab Technologies (GALT) Partners with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to Improve Biofuel Production
    on December 14, 2017 at 5:53 am

    New $1.5 million DOE grant will utilize GALT's novel high throughput microbiome research platform to improve algal biofuel growth through microbiome engineering SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 14, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been ... […]

  • Hill, White House staffers explore solutions to biofuel feud
    on December 14, 2017 at 2:54 am

    Want access to the top energy and environment news? Sign up for a free trial! Enter your email to register or log in. By signing up, you agree to receive email updates and special offers from E&E News. You can unsubscribe at any time. […]

  • U.S. Midwest lawmakers will consider biofuel changes to help refiners
    on December 13, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers from states that produce corn for ethanol plants said on Wednesday they would consider proposals from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to help the oil refining industry cope with the nation’s biofuels regulation, but would ... […]

  • Biofuel R&D for ethanol, green chemical from crop waste
    on December 13, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    A new fuel technology to convert harvested crops and other plant waste into biofuel and green chemical products is being developed with $11.9 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The new technology uses ‘strong acid ... […]

  • Daily on Energy: White House holds round two on fixing biofuel mandate
    on December 13, 2017 at 7:18 am

    SIGN UP! If you’d like to continue receiving Washington Examiner's Daily on Energy newsletter, SUBSCRIBE HERE: WHITE HOUSE HOLDS ROUND TWO ON FIXING BIOFUEL MANDATE: The White House ... […]

  • Senate GOP Tries to Overhaul Biofuel Standards
    on December 12, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    The long-running legislative campaign to overhaul the Environmental Protection Agency’s biofuel-blending mandate has been littered with failures. But Senate Republicans are now taking up the mantle, seemingly undaunted by stagnant House negotiations ... […]

  • Research Unveils New Promising Biofuel
    on December 11, 2017 at 6:48 am

    New research indicates that poplar trees could be an economically viable biofuel material. In the quest to produce affordable biofuels, poplars are one of the Pacific Northwest’s best bets—the trees are abundant, fast-growing, adaptable to many ... […]

  • Ted Cruz, other oil-state Republicans meet with Trump on biofuel mandate concerns
    on December 7, 2017 at 9:54 am

    WASHINGTON — A high-dollar tussle between oil states like Texas and corn states like Iowa reached the White House on Thursday, adding yet another dimension to a years-long debate over renewable fuel standards. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, long a critic of ... […]

via Google News and Bing News

Other Interesting Posts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: