Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Fungus discovery revolutionizes ethanol and hygiene industries

A research team at Borås University College in Sweden, headed by Professor Mohammad Taherzadeh, has made a unique and revolutionary discovery.

The discovery consists of a fungus that extremely effectively converts waste to ethanol. From the residual biomass, moreover, it is possible to extract an antibacterial and super-absorbent material that can be composted. This is good news for the paper industry and for producers of diapers and feminine hygiene items, and not least for nature.

It was about seven months ago that Mohammad Taherzadeh and his research team started their search for a fungus for ethanol production.

Together with scientists from Göteborg University, they found a group of filament-producing fungi, zygomycetes, that have proven to have interesting properties.

"Today baker's yeast is used for the production of ethanol, but we have found a fungus that is more effective than baker's yeast," says Mohammad Taherzadeh, professor of biotechnology at the School of Engineering, Borås University College, and one of the world's leading ethanol researchers.

Easy to use

Within the order zygomycetes, more than 100 different fungi were tested, and in the end, the one with the best properties was singled out. The fungus, which is a saprophyte, is extremely easy to grow in waste and drainage.

"It is low maintenance, requiring hardly anything to start growing and degrading the waste. The temperature plays some role. We have tried to get it to grow in sulfite lye, but also in brush, forestry waste, and fruit rinds, and the results were equally good in all cases," reports Mohammad Taherzadeh.

Converts waste to raw material

Being able to convert sulfite lye for the production of ethanol is good news, in both economic and environmental terms.

Sulfite lye, which is a byproduct of the production of paper and viscose pulp, is difficult for factories to dispose of since it contains chemicals that must not be casually released in nature. From being a highly undesirable byproduct for the paper industry, sulfite lye will now be an attractive raw material for the extraction of ethanol.

"This is truly exciting. Zygomycetes in ethanol production represent an unknown area. We are the only scientists in the world to have presented them as ethanol-producing fungi, but we realize that the potential is huge," says Mohammad Taherzadeh, who relates a curious anecdote that the fungi have another use in Indonesia: they are a food fungus.

Super-absorbent bonus effect

Zygomycetes are not only highly effective in producing ethanol; the research team also found that the biomass that is left over in the production of ethanol can be used to extract a cell-wall material that is super-absorbent and antibacterial. What's more, it's a biological material that can be composted and recycled.

This discovery opens an entirely new dimension for research on the fungi, according to Mohammad Taherzadeh, whose project "Production of antimicrobial super-absorbent from sulfite lye using zygomycetes" was recently awarded more than SEK 800,000 from the Knowledge Foundation to continue its research into this cell-wall material.

Reduces greenhouse effect

Super-absorbent material is used in diapers and feminine hygiene products, but also for bandages and other products for treating wounds. Today the super-absorbent in these types of products is polyacrylate, but polyacrylate is not biodegradable: it has to be burned. This combustion release carbon dioxide in the air, a compound that aggravates the greenhouse effect. On the other hand, if polyacrylate is replaced with this biological super-absorbent, diapers will not have to be incinerated, but instead can be composted, retted, and converted to biogas. This, in turn, entails a reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide into the air.

Kills bacteria and fungi

The antibacterial property of the biological super-absorbent is also advantageous in comparison with polyacrylate.

"Our cell-wall material absorbs about ten times its weight in liquid. It can also kill bacteria and fungi, which means that a diaper would not irritate the skin and would last longer before any unpleasant odors arise. We have experimented with adding e-coli bacteria as well, an aggressive sort of bacteria, and the cell-wall material manages to neutralize them," says Mohammad Taherzadeh. Equally good results are reported from experiments with other bacteria types, such as Klebsiella pneumonia and Staphylococcus aureus, as well as the fungus Candida albicans.

"The research will continue on ethanol production as well, but our focus is now on developing the cell-wall material further. Since this is an unknown field, a great deal of work will be needed for us to fully understand the potential of this material," says Mohammad Taherzadeh.

In stores soon?

This research is also tied to product development work, being carried out in close collaboration with Rexcell AB (formerly Duni) and Medical Equipment Development AB.

"Together with these two companies we are trying to add this cell-wall material to paper in a process called 'airlaid non-woven'." The aim is to develop a commercial product that can be used in many industries, according to Mohammad Taherzadeh. "Our experiments have been promising thus far, and our collaborative partners are looking into the possibility of patenting the method."

The research team includes:

Mohammad Taherzadeh, professor at the School of Engineering, Borås University College, project director of "Production of antimicrobial super-absorbent from sulfite lye using zygomycetes"
Nukael Skrigvars, professor at the School of Engineering, Borås University College
Hans Björk, head of the School of Engineering, Borås University College
Akram Zamani, doctoral candidate, School of Engineering, Borås University College

Anneli Wadenfalk, doctoral candidate, School of Engineering, Borås University College

The team also comprises several students at the School of Engineering who are writing their master's theses.

A further doctoral candidate will be employed on the project.

For more information, please contact Professor Mohammad Taherzadeh, project director of the project "Production of antimicrobial super-absorbent from sulfite lye using zygomycetes" at e-mail:; phone: +46 (0)33-4355908; cell phone: +46 (0)707-171032.

Annie Andréasson | idw
Further information:

Further reports about: Borås Ethanol Hygiene Mohammad Taherzadeh lye polyacrylate super-absorbent

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>