Biofuels

How one bacterium could help ease reliance on food crops for biofuel

Read the full story from the Christian Science Monitor.

In the quest for affordable, non-food sources of biofuel, biologists are recruiting an unlikely ally: a bacterium that has historically been the bane of brewers.

The bacterium, Zymomonas mobilis, causes beer to spoil. But it also converts biomass such as switch grass and crop residues into ethanol faster and in larger quantities, cell for cell, than does yeast, the most widely used fermenting agent. It leaves less bacterial biomass at the end of the process. And it carries something yeast doesn’t – an enzyme that gives it an ability to draw the nitrogen it needs as fertilizer directly from air, rather than from costly commercial supplements.

Now a team of biologists from Indiana University says it has provided unambiguous evidence that Z. mobilis actually can use simple nitrogen gas as a fertilizer – a matter of some dispute in recent years, even though researchers have known for decades that the bacterium had the biochemical tools to do so. And it does so without sacrificing the amount of ethanol it makes.

A Closer Look at the Flawed Studies Behind Policies Used to Promote ‘Low-Carbon’ Biofuels

Read the full story from the University of Michigan.

Nearly all of the studies used to promote biofuels as climate-friendly alternatives to petroleum fuels are flawed and need to be redone, according to a University of Michigan researcher who reviewed more than 100 papers published over more than two decades…

In his article, DeCicco examines the four main approaches that have been used to evaluate the carbon dioxide impacts of liquid transportation fuels, both petroleum-based fuels and plant-based biofuels. His prime focus is “carbon footprinting,” a type of lifecycle analysis proposed in the late 1980s as a way to evaluate the total emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with the production and use of transportation fuels.

Researchers identify materials to improve biofuel processing

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota.

Using one of the largest supercomputers in the world, a team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota has identified potential materials that could improve the production of ethanol and petroleum products. The discovery could lead to major efficiencies and cost savings in these industries.

The University of Minnesota has two patents pending on the research and hopes to license these technologies. The study was published in the research journal Nature Communications.

York scientists shed further new light on biomass breakdown

Read the full story in Ethanol Producer Magazine.

Scientists at the University of York are part of a research team which has found that a recently discovered family of enzymes can degrade resistant forms of starch.

Earlier research established that the enzymes – lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs) – are able to degrade hard-to-digest biomass into its constituent sugars.

But the enzymes — which are secreted by both fungi and bacteria – have now also been shown to have the ability to chip away at other intractable materials such as resistant forms of starch.

Starch is a polysaccharide that is highly prevalent in both food and plants. Determining the way it is broken down by an LPMO now offers potential for utilizing this starch in new ways, potentially including the production of biofuels.

An international team of researchers, led by Professor Paul Walton and Professor Gideon Davies of the Department of Chemistry at York, carried out the research which is published in Nature Communications.

Biofuel Production: Considerations for USACE Civil Works Business Lines

Download the document.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) has set goals for renewable fuels standards (RFS) that include the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, with 21 billion gallons from non-corn sources. To meet the congressionally mandated bioenergy goals, the evolving bioenergy industry in the United States must be efficient, reliable, and sustainable. To that end, industry leaders are encouraging stakeholder engagement. Because it manages large areas of land, the U.S. Army is gaining national appeal for providing cellulosic feedstock to an emerging biofuels industry. Although not currently engaged, the Army and its directorates are investigating how biofuel production might impact the future viability of their mission and operations. The indicator framework presented in this document characterizes regional aspects of biofuel production, which is intended to provide a heightened awareness of how biofuel production might address various long-term issues and threats to mission sustainment.

Patenting Strategies in the Biodiesel Industry

Read the full story in Biodiesel Magazine.

Obtaining a desirable scope of coverage, as defined by patent claims, involves a number of important considerations. Being mindful of these points can improve the chances of effectively protecting a biodiesel process or product technology.

Swiss Researchers Create Eco-Friendly Plastic From Biofuel Waste

Read the full story in Smithsonian.

In a breakthrough that may benefit two different eco-friendly technologies, a group of Swiss researchers has discovered a way to make biodegradable plastic from a pesky waste product of biofuel.