Building a biofuel-boosting Swiss Army knife

Read the full story from Michigan State University.

Researchers at Michigan State University have built a molecular Swiss Army knife that streamlines the molecular machinery of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, making biofuels and other green chemical production from these organisms more viable.

The team has done in a year what has taken millions of years to evolve. In the current issue of Plant Cell, they describe how they fabricated a synthetic protein that not only improves the assembly of the carbon-fixing factory of cyanobacteria, but also provides a proof of concept for a device that could potentially improve plant photosynthesis or be used to install new metabolic pathways in bacteria.

Biodiesel Study in the International Context Using Technology Prospecting

Read the full post in the ACS Green Chemistry blog.

Concerns regarding the environment and growing necessity of technology to extract energy resources have been leading to a search for alternative energy resources, among which biofuels are the most studied nowadays. Biodiesel has been in the spotlight in the recent years.

Any vegetable oil extracted from oilseed can be used as a feedstock to biodiesel production (1). Recently, microorganisms have also been a topic of academic studies with the most diverse approaches, from the use of such microorganisms as lipid resources (2,3,4) to their genetic modification to produce biodiesel working as a biocatalyst (5). Some studies even suggest the use of animal fat wastes (AFWs) as feedstock in order to lower feedstock costs while simultaneously eschewing feedstock which might threaten food safety (6).Efforts have also been made to produce biodiesel using waste cooking oil.

Transesterification via basic homogeneous catalysis is the main industrial route for biodiesel production but today, different kinds of heterogeneous catalysts have been studied as a potential alternative to the previous method. Scientists have been searching for raw glycerin applications since raw byproduct generated during transesterification has a low value and its purification is sophisticated and expensive.(7) The aim of this work is to find the most relevant research and innovation concerning biodiesel all over the world and the perspectives about the future. An effective way to summarize these studies is by analyzing what the results indicate about the degree of maturity of the international biodiesel industry and how different regions of the globe are inserted in this scenario.

Video: Sustainability in Bioenergy: A Nation Connected

“Sustainability in Bioenergy: A Nation Connected” is a short documentary highlighting personal stories and the efforts being made by communities across the United States to develop, produce, and provide bioenergy, while ensuring it is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. From farmers and families in the Midwest, to researchers and business-owners on the coasts, “Sustainability in Bioenergy: A Nation Connected” is a prelude to future products that will provide first-hand views on how sustainability in bioenergy unites us as a nation. This video was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office and supports initiatives to expand the public’s understanding of sustainable transportation and the bioenergy industry.

Perennial biofuel crops’ water consumption similar to corn

Read the full story from Michigan State University.

Converting large tracts of the Midwest’s marginal farming land to perennial biofuel crops carries with it some key unknowns, including how it could affect the balance of water between rainfall, evaporation and movement of soil water to groundwater.

In humid climates such as the U.S. Midwest, evaporation returns more than half of the annual precipitation to the atmosphere, with the remainder available to recharge groundwater and maintain stream flow and lake levels.

A recent study from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and published in Environmental Research Letters looks at how efficiently “second generation” biofuel crops – perennial, non-food crops such as switchgrass or native grasses – use rainwater and how these crops affect overall water balance.

Energy Department Awards $18 Million to Develop Valuable Bioproducts and Biofuels from Algae

The Energy Department has announced six projects that will receive up to $18 million in funding to reduce the modeled price of algae-based biofuels to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. This funding supports the development of a bioeconomy that can help create green jobs, spur innovation, improve the environment, and achieve national energy security.

Algal biomass can be converted to advanced biofuels that offer promising alternatives to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels.  Additionally, algae can be used to make a range of other valuable bioproducts, such as industrial chemicals, bio-based polymers, and proteins. However, barriers related to algae cultivation, harvesting, and conversion to fuels and products need to be overcome to achieve the Department’s target of $3 per gge for advanced algal biofuels by 2030. To accomplish this goal, the Department is investing in applied research and development technologies that can achieve higher yields of targeted bioproducts and biofuels from algae—increasing the overall value for algae biomass.

The projects selected include:

  • Producing Algae and Co-Products for Energy (PACE), Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO – Colorado School of Mines, in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Reliance Industries Ltd., and others, will receive up to $9 million to enhance overall algal biofuels sustainability by maximizing carbon dioxide, nutrient, and water recovery and recycling, as well as bio-power co-generation.
  • Marine Algae Industrialization Consortium (MAGIC), Duke University, Durham, NC – Duke University will receive up to $5.2 million to lead a consortium including University of Hawaii, Cornell University, Cellana and others to produce protein-based human and poultry nutritional products along with hydrotreated algal oil extract.
  • Global Algae Innovations, Inc., El Cajon, CA – Global Algae Innovations will receive up to $1 million to increase algal biomass yield by deploying an innovative system to absorb carbon dioxide from the flue gas of a nearby power plant.
  • Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ – Arizona State University will receive up to $1 million for atmospheric carbon dioxide capture, enrichment, and delivery to increase biomass productivity.
  • University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA – The University of California, San Diego will receive up to $760,000 to develop an automated  early detection system that can identify and characterize infestation or infection of an algae production pond in order to ensure crop health.
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will receive up to $1 million to protect algal crops by developing “probiotic” bacteria to combat pond infestationand increase ecosystem functioning and resilience.

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Learn more about EERE’s work with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in biomass feedstocks and conversion technologies here.

FedEx, United bet it’s (finally) time for jet biofuels to take off

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Aviation biofuels are on the rise again thanks to airlines like Virgin, Southwest and United, as well as buy-in from manufacturers and logistics providers Boeing and FedEx.

Power Your Car With a Biofuel Made From Beer

Read the full story in CityLab.

Beer—is there anything it can’t do?

You can chug it to improve the watchability of baseball, use it to de-ice roads, and now even power your car with it, thanks to the New Zealand biofuel “Brewtroleum.” The ethanol used in the greener gas, which was dreamed up by DB Export, is derived from leftovers of the brewing process, chiefly grain and yeast.