Tag Archives: biofuel

New, Simple Technique May Drive Down Biofuel Production Costs

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a simple, effective and relatively inexpensive technique for removing lignin from the plant material used to make biofuels, which may drive down the cost of biofuel production.

Lignin, nature’s way of protecting plant cell walls, is difficult to break down or remove from plant materials called “biomass,” such as the non-edible parts of the corn plant. However, that lignin needs to be extracted in order to reach the energy-rich cellulose that is used to make biofuels. (more…)

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Hard rock life

Scientists are digging deep into the Earth’s surface collecting census data on the microbial denizens of the hardened rocks. What they’re finding is that, even miles deep and halfway across the globe, many of these communities are somehow quite similar.

The results, which were presented at the American Geophysical Union conference Dec. 8, suggest that these communities may be connected, said Matthew Schrenk, Michigan State University geomicrobiologist. (more…)

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Bugs produce diesel on demand

It sounds like science fiction but a team from the University of Exeter, with support from Shell, has developed a method to make bacteria produce diesel on demand.

While the technology still faces many significant commercialisation challenges, the diesel, produced by special strains of E. coli bacteria, is almost identical to conventional diesel fuel.

This means that it does not need to be blended with petroleum products as is often required by biodiesels derived from plant oils. It also means that the diesel can be used with current supplies in existing infrastructure because engines, pipelines and tankers do not need to be modified. Biofuels with these characteristics are being termed ‘drop-ins’.  (more…)

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A Better Route to Xylan

Joint BioEnergy Institute Researchers Find New Access to Abundant Biomass for Advanced Biofuels

After cellulose, xylan is the most abundant biomass material on Earth, and therefore represents an enormous potential source of stored solar energy for the production of advance biofuels. A major roadblock, however, has been extracting xylan from plant cell walls. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have taken a significant step towards removing this roadblock by identifying a gene in rice plants whose suppression improves both the extraction of xylan and the overall release of the sugars needed to make biofuels.

The newly identified gene – dubbed XAX1 – acts to make xylan less extractable from plant cell walls. JBEI researchers, working with a mutant variety of rice plant – dubbed xax1 – in which the XAX1 gene has been “knocked-out” found that not only was xylan more extractable, but saccharification – the breakdown of carbohydrates into releasable sugars – also improved by better than 60-percent. Increased saccharification is key to more efficient production of advanced biofuels. (more…)

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Biofuels from Algae Hold Potential, but Not Ready for Prime Time

UA biofuel expert Joel Cuello explains how future innovations could help realize algal biofuels’ full potential.

Scaling up the production of biofuels made from algae to meet at least 5 percent – about 10 billion gallons – of U.S. transportation fuel needs would place unsustainable demands on energy, water and nutrients, says a new report from the National Research Council, or NRC. However, these concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, and innovations that would require research and development could help realize algal biofuels’ full potential.

“Algal biofuels are not quite ready for prime time,” said NRC committee member Joel Cuello, a professor in the UA department of agricultural and biosystems engineering who co-authored the report. “In other words, if scaled up today, the resources that have to go into production would not be sustainable. However, in our report we say that this not a show stopper, because there are technology combinations that can be designed and developed to make the production process more environmentally sustainable.” (more…)

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Ecologist: Genetically Engineered Algae for Biofuel Pose Potential Risks That Should Be Studied

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Algae are high on the genetic engineering agenda as a potential source for biofuel, and they should be subjected to independent studies of any environmental risks that could be linked to cultivating algae for this purpose, two prominent researchers say.

Writing in the August 2012 issue of the journal BioScience, the researchers argue that ecology experts should be among scientists given independent authority and adequate funding to explore any potential unintended consequences of this technological pursuit. (more…)

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MU Researchers Work to Further Biofuel Production without Increasing Food Prices

COLUMBIA, Mo. – America is looking for more biofuel through the use of crops such as corn and soybeans, but concerns about higher food prices persist when land for biofuel displaces land for food crops. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are hoping to increase biofuel production without impacting food production. This fall, MU scientists are beginning a study to determine how non-food biofuel crops, such as switchgrass, grow in marginal land along the floodplains, where most crops cannot thrive.

Now, the team in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources has received a $5.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to further its research. The project is part of a $125 million international project to further research that will study how to use marginal land to grow high-yield, biofuel crops and convert them to advanced biofuels. (more…)

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Canola Oil Industry Cooking in Michigan

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Canola can now be grown profitably in Michigan, thanks to Michigan State University.

Canola, which has potential as biofuel and cooking oil, is considered a high-value crop with seeds comprised of more than 40 percent oil. When compared to soybeans, which have 18 percent oil, and corn, which yields a mere 4 percent, canola stood out to MSU researchers as a key crop to help boost Michigan’s economy.

In 2008, MSU launched the Canola Project. The effort brought together farmers, biofuel production experts, and MSU professors and extension agents to help establish Michigan as one of the nation’s leaders in this field. By exploring the production and refinement of canola oil, the initiative aims to lessen dependence on foreign oil and strengthen Michigan’s rural economies. (more…)

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