A newly created microbe produces cellulose that can be turned into ethanol and other biofuels, report scientists from The University of Texas at Austin who say the microbe could provide a significant portion of the nation’s transportation fuel if production can be scaled up.
Along with cellulose, the cyanobacteria developed by Professor R. Malcolm Brown Jr. and Dr. David Nobles Jr. secrete glucose and sucrose. These simple sugars are the major sources used to produce ethanol.
“The cyanobacterium is potentially a very inexpensive source for sugars to use for ethanol and designer fuels,” says Nobles, a research associate in the Section of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.
Brown and Nobles say their cyanobacteria can be grown in production facilities on non-agricultural lands using salty water unsuitable for human consumption or crops.
Other key findings include:The new cyanobacteria use sunlight as an energy source to produce and excrete sugars and cellulose
Cyanobacteria that can fix atmospheric nitrogen can be grown without petroleum-based fertilizer input
They recently published their research in the journal Cellulose.
Nobles made the new cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) by giving them a set of cellulose-making genes from a non-photosynthetic “vinegar” bacterium, Acetobacter xylinum, well known as a prolific cellulose producer.The new cyanobacteria produce a relatively pure, gel-like form of cellulose that can be broken down easily into glucose.
He was surprised to discover that the cyanobacteria also secrete large amounts of glucose or sucrose, sugars that can be directly harvested from the organisms.
“The huge expense in making cellulosic ethanol and biofuels is in using enzymes and mechanical methods to break cellulose down,” says Nobles. “Using the cyanobacteria escapes these expensive processes.”
Sources being used or considered for ethanol production in the United States include switchgrass and wood (cellulose), corn (glucose) and sugarcane (sucrose). True algae are also being developed for biodiesel production.
Brown sees a major benefit in using cyanobacteria to produce ethanol is a reduction in the amount of arable land turned over to fuel production and decreased pressure on forests.
“The pressure is on all these corn farmers to produce corn for non-food sources,” says Brown, the Johnson & Johnson Centennial Chair in Plant Cell Biology. “That same demand, for sucrose, is now being put on Brazil to open up more of the Amazon rainforest to produce more sugarcane for our growing energy needs. We don’t want to do that. You’ll never get the forests back.”
Brown and Nobles calculate that the approximate area needed to produce ethanol with corn to fuel all U.S. transportation needs is around 820,000 square miles, an area almost the size of the entire Midwest.
They hypothesize they could produce an equal amount of ethanol using an area half that size with the cyanobacteria based on current levels of productivity in the lab, but they caution that there is a lot of work ahead before cyanobacteria can provide such fuel in the field. Work with laboratory scale photobioreactors has shown the potential for a 17-fold increase in productivity. If this can be achieved in the field and on a large scale, only 3.5 percent of the area growing corn could be used for cyanobacterial biofuels.
Cyanobacteria are just one of many potential solutions for renewable energy, says Brown.
“There will be many avenues to become completely energy independent, and we want to be part of the overall effort,” Brown says. “Petroleum is a precious commodity. We should be using it to make useful products, not just burning it and turning it into carbon dioxide.”
Lee Clippard | EurekAlert!
How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology