Monday, July 12, 2010

Ancient Bacteria Works to Position Itself in Bioenergy Race

“In this study,” Kim notes, “we found that phosphorus is really important.” Indeed, the cyanobacteria were unable to make efficient use of carbon dioxide in their growth cycle until the BG-11 medium was supplemented with phosphorus. Augmenting the medium with additional phosphorus allowed higher biomass productivity in the bioreactor. Once the phosphorus limitation was overcome, light irradiance and CO2 became the limiting factors for growth. _NewEnergyandFuel
Cyanobacteria are over 3.5 billion years old, and provide the world's oldest fossils. Often referred to as "blue-green algae", they are not actually algae. And cyanobacteria are not ready to let algae take all the glory, in the brave new world of cornucopian biomass and bioenergy.
Cyanobacteria are among the oldest living forms in nature, responsible for generating the atmospheric oxygen we breathe today. Now Hyun Woo Kim and Raveender Vannela, researchers at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University are perfecting the means to culture these microbes—a potentially rich source of biofuels and biomaterials—in significantly greater abundance. The work provides a vital foundation for optimizing a device known as a photobioreactor (PBR), in which these energy-packed photosynthetic organisms proliferate. research indicates that the optimization of cyanobacterial growth requires a delicate interplay of CO2, phosphorus and sufficient light irradiation, within the PBR vessel containing the microbial crop. The group’s foundational study provides quantitative tools for evaluating factors limiting production of cyanobacteria within PBRs—a critical step along the path to large scale biofuel production. Results appeared recently in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.

Photosynthetic cyanobacteria are able to produce roughly 100 times the amount of clean fuel per acre compared with other biofuel crops, and because their survival needs are simple—sunlight, water, CO2 and a few nutrients—they do not require arable land to be taken out of food production. Rather, cyanobacteria can be grown in rooftop PBRs or wherever sufficient quantities of sunlight and CO2 can be provided.

...Cyanobacteria reproduce prolifically, achieving a high biomass yield and they are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, salinities and pH conditions. In addition to biofuels, which are extracted from fat-containing lipids in the cyanobacteria, the microbes can also produce many chemically based materials useful for industrial applications, like biopolymers or isoprenes. Photosynthetic microbes are also valuable for the growing field of neutraceuticals, permitting the manufacture of anti-cancer agents from fatty acids or antioxidants like beta carotene.

...Vannela and Kim stress that while they supplied CO2 and nutrients including phosphorus to the PBR’s cyanobacteria in their experimental design, ultimately, the nutrient source could come from waste streams or be recycled from the harvested biomass, while the excess CO2 produced by power plants could fulfill the microbe’s respiratory requirements. Thus, a closed loop could be formed, generating useful energy from water contaminants and the CO2 currently contributing to greenhouse warming. _ArizonaState_via_NewEnergyandFuel
A wide variety of microbes would be amenable to "tweaking" to achieve optimal production of fuels, high value chemicals, plastics, animal feed, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and other useful co-products. Just the biomass alone -- up to 100 times the biomass of other bioenergy crops -- opens several doors to valuable products.

Humans have worked with microbes for perhaps ten thousand years, in producing beer, butter, cheese, wine -- and more recently extremely valuable pharmaceuticals. Microbes are used for oil spill remediation and increasingly for topsoil remediation and revitalisation.

But as long as governments waste billions -- even committing trillions -- to phantoms of carbon hysteria and destructive "green" energy approaches such as wind and solar, many of the more worthy approaches to an abundant and clean energy future will go unfunded. Such stupidity at the highest levels, when the lowest and most ancient levels of life are waiting to help.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts