Saturday, April 03, 2010

Direct Biomass to Diesel with Fungus Mucor Circinelloides

Spanish researchers have published a study online in ACS Energy & Fuels Journal, demonstrating the direct conversion of biomass to diesel fuel using a fungus. The researchers intend to genetically tweak the organism to provide for higher yields.
...lipid profiles could be modified by genetic engineering in some oleaginous microorganisms, such as the fungus Mucor circinelloides, which has powerful genetic tools. We show here that the biomass from submerged cultures of the oleaginous fungus M. circinelloides can be used to produce biodiesel by acid-catalyzed direct transformation, without previous extraction of the lipids. Direct transformation, which should mean a cost savings for biodiesel production, increased lipid extraction and demonstrated that structural lipids, in addition to energy storage lipids, can be transformed into FAMEs.

The team grew M. circinelloides (strain MU241) in a liquid medium containing glucose as a carbon source (20 g/L). Under experimental conditions, the fungus grew very quickly because it consumed all of the available glucose and stopped growing in the first 48 hours after inoculation. After 96 h, they obtained 4.17 ± 0.25 g/L fungal biomass with a total lipid content of 22.9 ± 0.9% dry mass.

The saponifiable lipids (those that can be transformed into FAMEs) and free fatty acids (including energy storage and structural lipids) were 98.0 ± 1.3% of the total lipids extracted from the biomass.

Because of the high concentration of free fatty acids (3.6 ± 0.6%) in M. circinelloides , the team determined that an acid-catalyzed process was more suitable for producing biodiesel than an alkali one to avoid yield losses from free fatty acid neutralization. _GCC
Fuel from microbes -- it is how most oil, gas, and coal were formed. It is how the clean and renewable hydrocarbon fuels of the future will be made, through the magic of genetic engineering.

The world may appear to be solid and stable to your eyes, but it is anything but. Look beneath the surface of any living thing and you will find a maelstrom of activity, too fast for the human eye to follow.

With genetics, strawberry and tomato plants could easily produce a wide range of chemicals: including fuels, plastics, and drugs -- legal and illegal. As genetic secrets (along with nanotechnological secrets and information processing secrets) are released into the public domain, the imagined grip that governments and other cultural institutions hold over the populace will be involuntarily loosened.

The times are a changin'.

More mundane magic from microbes



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