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:
Basil Nikolau, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, (515) 294-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Krapfl | Newswise Science News
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences