Tag Archives: gasoline

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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Testing Artificial Photosynthesis

Berkeley Lab Researchers Develop Fully Integrated Microfluidic Test-bed for Solar-driven Electrochemical Energy Conversion Systems

With the daily mean concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide having reached 400 parts-per-million for the first time in human history, the need for carbon-neutral alternatives to fossil fuel energy has never been more compelling. With enough energy in one hour’s worth of global sunlight to meet all human needs for a year, solar technologies are an ideal solution. However, a major challenge is to develop efficient ways to convert solar energy into electrochemical energy on a massive-scale. A key to meeting this challenge may lie in the ability to test such energy conversion schemes on the micro-scale.

Berkeley Lab researchers, working at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), have developed the first fully integrated microfluidic test-bed for evaluating and optimizing solar-driven electrochemical energy conversion systems. This test-bed system has already been used to study schemes for photovoltaic electrolysis of water, and can be readily adapted to study proposed artificial photosynthesis and fuel cell technologies. (more…)

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A cheaper drive to ‘cool’ fuels

UD scientists pioneer inexpensive catalyst to drive synthetic fuel production

University of Delaware chemist Joel Rosenthal is driven to succeed in the renewable energy arena. 

Working in his lab in UD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Rosenthal and doctoral student John DiMeglio have developed an inexpensive catalyst that uses the electricity generated from solar energy to convert carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, into synthetic fuels for powering cars, homes and businesses. 

The research is published in the June 19 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. (more…)

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Moth-Inspired Nanostructures Take the Color Out of Thin Films

Inspired by the structure of moth eyes, researchers at North Carolina State University have developed nanostructures that limit reflection at the interfaces where two thin films meet, suppressing the “thin-film interference” phenomenon commonly observed in nature. This can potentially improve the efficiency of thin-film solar cells and other optoelectronic devices.

Thin-film interference occurs when a thin film of one substance lies on top of a second substance. For example, thin-film interference is what causes the rainbow sheen we see when there is gasoline in a puddle of water. (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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Boosting Galactan Sugars Could Boost Biofuel Production

Collaboration at JBEI Identifies the First Enzyme Linked to Galactan Synthesis

Galactan is a polymer of galactose, a six-carbon sugar that can be readily fermented by yeast into ethanol and is a target of interest for researchers in advanced biofuels produced from cellulosic biomass. Now an international collaboration led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified the first enzyme capable of substantially boosting the amount of galactan in plant cell walls.

Unlike ethanol, advanced biofuels synthesized from the sugars in plant cells walls could replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuels on a gallon-for-gallon basis and be dropped into today’s engines and infrastructures with no modifications required. Also, adanced biofuels have the potential to be carbon-neutral, meaning they could be burned without adding excess carbon to the atmosphere. Among the key challenges to making advanced biofuels cost competitive is finding ways to maximize the amount of plant cell wall sugars that can be fermented into fuels. (more…)

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More Bang for the Biofuel Buck

Berkeley Lab Researchers Combine Old Fermentation Process For Making Explosives with New Chemical Catalysis to Boost Biofuel Production

A fermentation technique once used to make cordite, the explosive propellant that replaced gunpowder in bullets and artillery shells, may find an important new use in the production of advanced biofuels. With the addition of a metal catalyst, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that the production of acetone, butanol and ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass could be selectively upgraded to the high volume production of gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

Using the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum, the Berkeley Lab researchers fermented the sugars found in biomass into the solvent acetone and the alcohols butanol and ethanol, collectively known as “ABE” products. They then catalyzed these low carbon number products with the transition metal palladium into higher-molecular-mass hydrocarbons that are possible precursors to the three major transportation fuel molecules. The specific type of fuel molecule produced – whether a precursor to gasoline, diesel or jet – was determined by the amount of time the ABE products resided with the palladium catalyst. (more…)

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A Fragrant New Biofuel

*JBEI Researchers Develop a New Candidate for a Cleaner, Greener and Renewable Diesel Fuel*

A class of chemical compounds best known today for fragrance and flavor may one day provide the clean, green and renewable fuel with which truck and auto drivers fill their tanks. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to generate significant quantities of methyl ketone compounds from glucose. In subsequent tests, these methyl ketones yielded high cetane numbers – a diesel fuel rating comparable to the octane number for gasoline – making them strong candidates for the production of advanced biofuels.

“Our findings add to the list of naturally occurring chemical compounds that could serve as biofuels, which means more flexibility and options for the biofuels industry,” says Harry Beller, a JBEI microbiologist who led this study. “We’re especially encouraged by our finding that it is possible to increase the methyl ketone titer production of E. coli more than 4,000-fold with a relatively small number of genetic modifications.” (more…)

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