Thursday, April 24, 2008

Biofuel breakthrough from Texas

Fantastic news from The University of Texas! Professor R. Malcolm Brown Jr. and Dr. David Nobles Jr. have created a microbe that produces cellulose that can be turned into ethanol and other biofuels. Nobles says that the microbe could provide a significant portion of the nation's transportation fuel if production can be scaled up.

“The cyanobacterium is potentially a very inexpensive source for sugars to use for ethanol and designer fuels,” says Nobles, a research associate in the Section of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. Brown and Nobles say their cyanobacteria can be grown in production facilities on non-agricultural lands using salty water unsuitable for human consumption or crops.

  • The new cyanobacteria use sunlight as an energy source to produce and excrete sugars and cellulose,
  • Glucose, cellulose and sucrose can be continually harvested without harming or destroying the cyanobacteria (harvesting cellulose and sugars from true algae or crops, like corn and sugarcane, requires killing the organisms and using enzymes and mechanical methods to extract the sugars),
  • Cyanobacteria that can fix atmospheric nitrogen can be grown without petroleum-based fertilizer input.

THOUGHTS: I these guys can really find a way to scale up the efficient and cost-effective production of this cyanobacteria… it could provide a sustainable and global breakthrough for the converging challenges climate change, peak oil and rampant food price rises.

KEY WORDS: Biotechnology, Biofuel, Energy, Peak Oil, Sustainability