Friday, June 18, 2010

Q Microbe vs. Super-Yeast: Battle of the Micro-Titans

...The industry needs to reach $1 per gallon to be competitive at large commercial scale, and we are not there yet. And we have about 12-24 months... _BiofuelsDigest
The Q Microbe is a strain of Clostridia Phytofermentans, a soil-dwelling bacterium isolated from forest soil in Massachussetts.
The microbe is also unusual in its ability to consume such a wide variety of plant material. It breaks down cellulose with ease, the notoriously tough molecule that’s the primary component of plant biomass. So Leschine’s team surveyed the bacterium’s dietary preferences, feeding it everything from wood pulp waste to sugar cane bagasse, the plant matter that’s left over once sugar cane is crushed. Pectin, starch, xylan and other plant polymers that can be difficult to digest were no problem for the microbe.

“Q is able to break down such a wide variety of these components—it’s a real generalist,” says Leschine. “Can you imagine the enzymes it makes?” _BiofuelReview

The new super-yeast from Purdue is said to be capable of fermenting "all five types of plant sugars."
Nancy Ho, a research professor of chemical engineering at Purdue explains, “Natural yeast can ferment three sugars: galactose, manose and glucose. The original yeast (Professor Ho developed) added xylose to that, and now the fifth, arabinose, has been added.” Adding the fungus genes allowed the yeast to create necessary enzymes to get through those steps. That about covers the sugars obtainable. _NewEnergyandFuel
But look more closely. The Q microbe breaks down cellulose from a wide range of biomass into sugars. The super-yeast ferments a wide range of sugars into ethanol. Why couldn't they just get along? They appear to be a perfect match, as long as you build a strong fence between the colonies.

In other bioenergy news, Spanish researchers have developed a profitable use for glycerine -- a byproduct of biodiesel production.

And speaking of profitable by-products of biofuels production, Biofuels Digest has started a new division dealing exclusively with the profitable production of bio-plastics, high value chemicals, and much more, from biomass.

Entire industries will spin off of the quest for biofuels -- some of them may well precede biofuels into mega-profitability.

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