Thursday, December 16, 2010

Energy Bits and Pieces

University of Illinois researchers have altered the genome of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast in order for it to more efficiently ferment galactose as well as glucose. This allows for much higher yields of biofuel from the fermentation of highly prolific seaweed.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have isolated Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains possessing genes altered to make the yeast more tolerant of higher levels of alcohol. Such yeast will allow fermentation to proceed to higher alcohol concentrations, which can be more efficiently and economically separated from aqueous solution.

Amyris and Cosan are collaborating to produce base oils -- using modified yeasts capable of producing hydrocarbons from plant sugars. These base oils will be used to make high value lubricants for a wide range of industrial machinery and equipment.

Better methods of pyrolysis are being perfected to make profitable use of household plastic waste. Valuable products of such waste pyrolysis include fuels, plastics, lubricants, and char.

Pyrolytic recycling of old automobile tyres is becoming more popular. Valuable oils, gases, fuels, steel, and char products can be sold for a profit, rather than having the tyres buried in landfills or incinerated as waste.

The use of seaweed (and other halophytes) for fuels illustrates a significant expansion of productive surface area of Earth for biofuels production -- without using cropland or competing with food production. The use of waste materials to produce valuable fuels and materials illustrates the conceptual expansion of what is considered useful raw materials for profitable industries.

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