Scientists this week described technology that accelerates microalgae’s ability to produce many different types of renewable oils for fuels, chemicals, foods and personal-care products within days using standard industrial fermentation. On highlight was Solazyme, which has achieved more than 80% oil within each individual cell of microalgae at the commercial scale.
Sandia National Laboratories is developing a suite of complementary technologies to...
Scientists this week described technology that accelerates microalgae’s ability to...
Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant organic material on Earth and could...
The production of biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass would benefit on several levels if carried out at temperatures between 65 and 70 C. Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute have employed a promising technique for improving the ability of enzymes that break cellulose down into fermentable sugars to operate in this temperature range.
U.S. Department of Energy Joint BioEnergy Institute researchers have developed an enzyme-free ionic liquid pretreatment of cellulosic biomass that makes it easier to recover fermentable sugars for biofuels and to recycle the ionic liquid.
The growing global demand for energy, combined with a need to reduce emissions and lessen the effects of climate change, has increased focus on cleaner energy sources. But what unintended consequences could these cleaner sources have on the changing climate? Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology now have some answers to that question, using biofuels as a test case.
University of Wisconsin-Madison chemists have identified an approach to use oxygen gas to convert lignin, a byproduct of biofuel production, into a form that could allow it to replace fossil fuels as a source of chemical feedstocks. Lignin is a complex organic material found in trees and other plants and is associated with cellulose, the valuable plant matter used to make paper or biofuels.
Kansas State University civil engineers are developing the right mix to reduce concrete's carbon footprint and make it stronger. Their innovative ingredient: biofuel byproducts.
Researchers at Michigan State University have used use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves—an uncommon occurrence for most plants. To confirm that the improved plants were more nutritious and contained more energy, the research team fed them to caterpillar larvae. The larvae that were fed oily leaves from the enhanced plants gained more weight than worms that ate regular leaves.
Fat worms confirm that researchers from Michigan State University have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves—a feat that could enhance biofuel production as well as lead to improved animal feeds. The results show that researchers could use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves—an uncommon occurrence for most plants.
In the search for renewable alternatives to gasoline, heavy alcohols such as isobutanol are promising candidates. Not only do they contain more energy than ethanol, but they are also more compatible with existing gasoline-based infrastructure. For isobutanol to become practical, however, scientists need a way to reliably produce huge quantities of it from renewable sources. Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers and biologists have now devised a way to dramatically boost isobutanol production in yeast, which naturally make it in small amounts.
According to Michigan State University plant biologist Carolyn Malmstrom, when we start combining the qualities of different types of plants into one, there can be unanticipated results. In the domestication of wild plants for bioenergy, for example, long-lived plants are being selected for fast growth like annuals. In contrast, perennial plants in nature grow slower, but are usually better equipped to fight off invading viruses. When wild-growing perennials do get infected they can serve as reservoirs for viruses.
Digesting lignin, a highly stable polymer that accounts for up to a third of biomass, is a limiting step to producing a variety of biofuels. Researchers at Brown have figured out the microscopic chemical switch that allows Streptomyces bacteria to get to work, breaking lignin down into its constituent parts.
Scientists made a major step forward recently towards transforming biomass-derived molecules into fuels. The team led by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers elucidated the chemical mechanism of the critical steps, which can be performed under relatively mild, energy-efficient conditions.
When Li Tan approached his colleagues at the University of Georgia with some unusual data he had collected, they initially seemed convinced that his experiment had become contaminated; what he was seeing simply didn't make any sense. Tan was examining some of the sugars, proteins, and polymers that make up plant cell walls, which provide the structural support and protection that allow plants to grow. Yet his samples contained a mixture of sugars that should not be present in the same structure.
Scientists studying an enzyme that naturally produces alkanes—long carbon-chain molecules that could be a direct replacement for the hydrocarbons in gasoline—have figured out why the natural reaction typically stops after three to five cycles. Armed with that knowledge, they’ve devised a strategy to keep the reaction going.
After decades of talk, the ethanol industry is building multimillion dollar refineries in several states that will use corn plant residue, wood scraps and even garbage to produce the fuel additive. The breakthrough comes at a key time for the industry, after the drought heightened criticism about the vast amount of corn used to brew up ethanol rather than be transformed into animal feed or other foods.
A collaboration by researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has shown that blending different feedstocks and milling the mixture into flour or pellets has significant potential for helping to make biofuels a cost-competitive transportation fuel technology.
Researchers seeking to improve production of ethanol from woody crops have a new resource in the form of an extensive molecular map of poplar tree proteins, published by a team from the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Several Iowa businesses and organizations have joined together to create a coalition that will push for continued government support of renewable fuels including ethanol and biodiesel. The Iowa RFS Coalition includes biotech giants DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta. In addition groups representing corn and soybean growers and farm equipment dealers have joined in the effort.
A curious characteristic of willows is that when they are cultivated for green energy they can yield five times more biofuel if they grow diagonally, compared with those that grow naturally straight up. Scientists were previously unable to explain why some willows produced more biofuel than others, but researchers have now identified a genetic trait that causes this effect and is activated in some trees when they sense they are at an angle, such as where they are blown sideways in windy conditions.
University of California, Santa Barbara researchers debate which makes more sense, growing fuel crops to supply alternative-fuel vehicles with ethanol and other biofuels or using photovoltaics to directly power battery electric vehicles?
Marginal lands—those unsuited for food crops—can serve as prime real estate for meeting the nation's alternative energy production goals. In Nature, a team of researchers led by Michigan State University shows that marginal lands represent a huge untapped resource to grow mixed species cellulosic biomass, plants grown specifically for fuel production, which could annually produce up to 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol in the Midwest alone.
Sandia National Laboratories Truman Fellow Anne Ruffing has engineered two strains of cyanobacteria to produce free fatty acids, a precursor to liquid fuels, but she has also found that the process cuts the bacteria’s production potential.
The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will help develop microbes that convert methane found in natural gas into liquid diesel fuel, a novel approach that if successful could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower dependence on foreign oil.
The wind energy and ethanol industries celebrated a victory Wednesday with the inclusion of tax credit extensions in the tax relief bill approved by Congress, but that may not mean lost jobs will come back anytime soon. The measure approved Tuesday night as part of the bill extending tax cuts for most taxpayers also helps wind energy and ethanol producers by extending tax credits, most of which expired Monday.
One reason that biofuels are expensive to make is that the organisms used to ferment the biomass cannot make effective use of hemicellulose, the next most abundant cell wall component after cellulose. However, a microbe found in the garbage dump of a canning plant in 1993 may hold the right enzymes for the job. Researchers are now working on isolating the gene cluster responsible for this ability.
Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the BioEnergy Science Center combined different microscopic imaging methods to gain a greater understanding of the relationships between biomass cell wall structure and enzyme digestibility, a breakthrough that could lead to optimizing sugar yields and lowering the costs of making biofuels.