Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Looking for Catalyst That Allows Plants to Produce Hydrocarbons

05.10.2009
Plants and algae may be a source of green, renewable hydrocarbons that could replace the ancient, finite hydrocarbons in fossil fuels, according to a team of researchers led by Iowa State University’s Jackie Shanks.

Shanks, Iowa State’s Manley R. Hoppe Professor of Chemical Engineering, said some plants and algae produce hydrocarbons as a way to store carbon and energy. And those hydrocarbons could be used to create second-generation biofuels.

“These plants are capturing solar energy and creating something that’s chemically identical to petroleum,” Shanks said.

But, she said, researchers don’t know the exact structures, mechanisms, genetics and metabolism of that conversion.

Shanks and a team of researchers recently won a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation to study the production of biological hydrocarbons.

The research team includes Basil Nikolau, Iowa State’s Frances M. Craig Professor in the departments of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology and food science and human nutrition, who’s also the deputy director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals based at Iowa State; Thomas Bobik, an Iowa State associate professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology; Gordon Wolfe, an associate professor of biological sciences at California State University, Chico; and Govind Nadathur, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Puerto Rico. The project will also support the research, training and education of a number of post-doctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduate students at Iowa State and the other universities. And it will provide these young researchers with an opportunity to broaden their training experience with national and international collaborations.

Shanks said the researchers’ specific task is to isolate, characterize and bioengineer a catalyst that creates the biological hydrocarbons.

Nikolau said the current project will not address which plants or algae are the best producers of biological hydrocarbons or how the biological process can best be exploited. He said those studies would build on the discoveries of the current project.

But can plants directly produce hydrocarbons for biofuels? Is that too good to be true?

Shanks said the research could lead to technologies that transform how liquid fuels are produced.

And that’s the kind of project the science foundation’s Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation is supporting.

According to the foundation, the office’s goal is to support “transformative opportunities potentially leading to: new research areas …; new industries or capabilities that result in a leadership position for the country; and/or significant progress on a recognized national need or grand challenge.”

A new, sustainable source of hydrocarbons could lead to all of that: “The production of renewable hydrocarbons that would integrate directly into the existing fossil-carbon infrastructure would represent an important advance in biofuels technology,” the researchers wrote in their project proposal. “Transforming this existing industry to a bio-based carbon feed-source is a grand challenge that will need to integrate unique and proficient biological solutions with new engineering efficiencies.”

Contacts:
Jackie Shanks, Chemical and Biological Engineering, (515) 294-4828, jshanks iastate.edu

Basil Nikolau, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, (515) 294-9423, dimmas@iastate.edu

Mike Krapfl | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>