Bacteria is Capable to Produce Biofuel From Non-Food Biomass

By on May 20th, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 5:09

bacterai-for-fuel_nc5im_5638Researchers have founded that microscopic organisms like microalgae and bacteria are biological factories that are proving to be efficient sources of inexpensive, environmentally friendly biofuels, which would help solve the looming fuel crisis in the 21st century.

“We have been charged to develop the next generation of cellulosic biofuels. When we successfully supply sources of energy to the grid from non-food, cellulosic, parts of plants we will mitigate the food versus fuel debate,” said Tim Donohue of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, one of two directors of Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers.

Scientists are currently looking at alternate biomasses as food for microorganisms to ferment into ethanol. The key to ending the food versus fuel debate is unlocking the sugars trapped in cellulosic biomass. Martin Keller at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the DOE bioenergy research center director, and his lab are testing poplar tree samples for their ability to give up sugars.

“We for the first time ever have developed a super-screening pipeline to handle thousands of samples. We took samples from approximately 1,300 poplar trees in the northwestern United States and used the screening pipeline to see if there was a difference in sugar release,” said Keller.

The researchers are currently studying a bacterium found in a hot spring in Yellowstone known as Anaerocellum.

It grows at approximately 80 degrees Celsius and is what is known as a consolidate bioprocessing microbe. It can not only break down the cellulosic biomass to sugars, but also ferment it to acetate and ethanol, saving time and money. Beside biodiesel and ethanol, researchers are also looking at producing hydrogen from renewable resources.

Donohue’s lab is working with purple bacteria that use photosynthesis to produce hydrogen from a combination of cellulosic feedstocks and sunlight. The hydrogen can then converted to electricity using fuel cells that his lab is also developing.

They have completed laboratory scale prototype “microbial batteries” using the bacteria and the fuel cells in a single enclosed system that, when exposed to sunlight, produces enough electrical current to power a laptop.

Source: Topnews


Posted in category Biofuel, Experiments
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2 Responses to “Bacteria is Capable to Produce Biofuel From Non-Food Biomass”

  1. Madeline says:

    May 28th, 2009 at 10:16 am


    It is really impressive that lots of people are trying to become greener and more eco friendly, it is really good. I think if everyone pulled together and tried to change small things then we could help the planet to improve. I have recently discovered a way to send friends a greetings card but without using any paper or stamps. I was told about eCards by a friend, we were chatting about ways in which we could help the environment. We both recycle everything, and make sure that we turn our electrics off at the mains, we also try and walk to places instead of driving. So trying to become more eco friendly with our greetings cards seemed like a good idea. We spent ages looking on the internet and came across a really cool environmentally friendly eCard site that I really like. I like this site because there is so much choice, and I found an eCard for every friend that I know will make them smile. Changing my habits, even if it is a small change, like opting for an eCard over snail mail, or recycling, I think if we all contributed we could all make a difference.

  2. Luis says:

    May 29th, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Spanish company touts process to turn urban waste into biodiesel
    By Ron Kotrba

    A group of Spanish developers working under the company name Ecofasa, headed by chief executive officer and inventor Francisco Angulo, has developed a biochemical process to turn urban solid waste into a fatty acid biodiesel feedstock. “It took more than 10 years working on the idea of producing biodiesel from domestic waste using a biological method,” Angulo told Biodiesel Magazine. “My first patent dates back to 2005. It was first published in 2007 in Soto de la Vega, Spain, thanks to the council and its representative Antonio Nevado.”

    Using microbes to convert organic material into energy isn’t a new concept to the renewable energy industries, and the same can be said for the anaerobic digestion of organic waste by microbes, which turns waste into biogas consisting mostly of methane. However, using bacteria to convert urban waste to fatty acids, which can then be used as a feedstock for biodiesel production, is a new twist. The Spanish company calls this process and the resulting fuel Ecofa. “It is based on metabolism’s natural principle by means of which all living organisms, including bacteria, produce fatty acids,” Angula said. “[It] comes from the carbon of any organic waste.”

    He defined urban waste as “organic wastes from home like food, paper, wood and dung,” and added that any carbon-based material can be used for biodiesel production under the Ecofa process. “For many years, I wondered why there are pools of oil in some mountains,” he said, explaining the reasoning behind his invention. “After delving into the issue, I realized that [those oil deposits] were produced by decomposing organic living microorganisms.” This, in Angulo’s mind, sparked the idea that food waste and bacteria could be turned into fatty acids that could react into biodiesel. Two types of bacteria are under further development by Biotit Scientific Biotechnology Laboratory in Seville, Spain: E. coli and Firmicutes. The Ecofa process also produces methane gas, and inconvertible solids that can be used as a soil amendment or fertilizer. “There is a huge variety of bacteria,” Angulo said. “Currently, [biodiesel producers] receive a fat that must be processed through transesterification into biodiesel, but we are also working on other types of bacteria that are capable of producing fatty acids with the same characteristics as biodiesel.” He said this would eventually allow producers to skip the transesterification step.

    Ecofasa may avoid the ongoing food-versus-fuel debate and its expected successor, indirect land use, with its Ecofa process. “It would not be necessary to use specific fields of maize, wheat, barley, beets, etc., which would remain for human consumption without creating distortions or famines with unforeseeable consequences,” the company stated in a press release. “This microbial technique can be extended to other organic debris, plants or animals, such as those contained in urban sewage. You can even experiment with other carbon sources, and this opens up a lot of possibilities. It is only necessary to find the appropriate bacteria.”

    The company created its name by combining the term “eco-combustible” with F.A., the initials of the inventor.

    “Today we feel that we can produce between one and two liters [of biodiesel] per 10 kilograms of trash,” Angulo said. That’s a little more than one-fourth to one-half of a gallon for every 22 pounds of trash—or between 24 and 48 gallons per ton of urban waste. “We are working to improve that,” he said.

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