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 Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>