Tag Archives: blake simmons

Microbial Who-Done-It for Biofuels

New Technique Identifies Populations Within a Microbial Community Responsible for Biomass Deconstruction

One of the keys to commercialization of advanced biofuels is the development of cost-competitive ways to extract fermentable sugars from lignocellulosic biomass. The use of enzymes from thermophiles – microbes that thrive at extremely high temperatures and alkaline conditions – holds promise for achieving this. Finding the most effective of these microbial enzymes, however, has been a challenge. That challenge has now been met by a collaboration led by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI).

Working with a compost-derived consortium of thermophillic bacterium adapted to grow on switchgrass, a leading potential fuel crop, and using a combination of metagenomic and metaproteomic technologies, the collaboration has identified individual microbial species whose enzymes were the most active in deconstructing the switchgrass biomass. Major institutes in addition to JBEI participating in this collaboration included DOE’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI), and EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a national scientific user facility at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). (more…)

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New Advance in Biofuel Production

Joint BioEnergy Institute Researchers Develop Enzyme-free Ionic Liquid Pre-treatment

Advanced biofuels – liquid fuels synthesized from the sugars in cellulosic biomass – offer a clean, green and renewable alternative to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. Bringing the costs of producing these advanced biofuels down to competitive levels with petrofuels, however, is a major challenge. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a bioenergy research center led by Berkeley Lab, have taken another step towards meeting this challenge with the development of a new technique for pre-treating cellulosic biomass with ionic liquids – salts that are liquids rather than crystals at room temperature. This new technique requires none of the expensive enzymes used in previous ionic liquid pretreatments, and makes it easier to recover fuel sugars and recycle the ionic liquid. (more…)

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Biofuels Blend Right In

Researchers Show Ionic Liquids Effective for Pre-Treating Mixed Blends of Biofuel Feedstocks

Winemakers have long known that blending different grape varietals can favorably balance the flavor characteristics of the wine they produce. In the future, makers of advanced biofuels might use a similar strategy, blending different feedstock varieties to balance the energy characteristics of the transportation fuel they produce.

A collaborative study by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a bioenergy research center led by Berkeley Lab, and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has shown that an ionic liquid proven to be effective for pre-treating individual biofuel feedstocks is also effective at pre-treating multiple different feedstocks that have been mixed and densified into a blend. (more…)

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Microbe That Can Handle Ionic Liquids

New Find From Joint BioEnergy Institute Could Help Reduce Biofuel Production Costs

In the search for technology by which economically competitive biofuels can be produced from cellulosic biomass, the combination of sugar-fermenting microbes and ionic liquid solvents looks to be a winner save for one major problem: the ionic liquids used to make cellulosic biomass more digestible for microbes can also be toxic to them. A solution to this conundrum, however, may be in the offing.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a multi-institutional partnership led by Berkeley Lab, have identified a tropical rainforest microbe that can endure relatively high concentrations of an ionic liquid used to dissolve cellulosic biomass. The researchers have also determined how the microbe is able to do this, a discovery that holds broad implications beyond the production of advanced biofuels. (more…)

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E. Coli Bacteria Engineered to Eat Switchgrass and Make Transportation Fuels

*Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) Researchers Reach Milestone on the Road to Biofuels*

A milestone has been reached on the road to developing advanced biofuels that can replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuels with a domestically-produced clean, green, renewable alternative.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered the first strains of  Escherichia coli bacteria that can digest switchgrass biomass and synthesize its sugars into all three of those transportation fuels. What’s more, the microbes are able to do this without any help from enzyme additives. (more…)

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A Wiki for the Biofuels Research Community

Blake Simmons (left) and Harvey Blanch of the Joint BioEnergy Institute led the development of a technoeconomic model for optimizing biorefinery operations. Image cedit: Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have created a technoeconomic model that should help accelerate the development of a next generation of clean, green biofuels that can compete with gasoline in economics and well as performance. This on-line, wiki-based model enables researchers to pursue the most promising strategies for cost-efficient biorefinery operations by simulating such critical factors as production costs and energy balances under different processing scenarios.

“The high production cost of biofuels has been the main factor limiting their widespread adoption,” says JBEI’s Daniel Klein-Marcuschamer. “We felt that a model of the biorefinery operation that was open, transparent about the assumptions it uses, and updatable by the community of users could aid in guiding research in the direction where it is most likely to reduce the production cost of biofuels.” (more…)

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