3 Picks: Fungi Biofuel, Sugar Ethanol, Biobutanol


Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Bacteria and Fungi Together: A Biofuel Dream Team? From Scientific American by Erin Brodwin. Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have created isobutanol from cornhusks, E. coli, and the fungi Trichoderma reesei. “Often when scientists arbitrarily combine organisms in the laboratory, one will outgrow another, driving it to extinction. Yet T. reesei and E. coli exhibited the one characteristic necessary for any stable system: synergy. “We allowed the natural dynamics to emerge,” Minty says. This interaction, which Minty and his team call a cooperator-cheater mechanism, allow the bacteria and fungi to maintain a state of balance. When the fungi degrade materials in the cornhusks into sugars, some of that action takes place on its surface. T. reesei thus gets the first crack at using them, preventing E. coli, which is far more efficient at snatching them up, from stealing all of the sugars and potentially starving out T. reesei.” K.M.: A number of years ago the very popular fungi-will-solve-the-world’s-problems-guy, Paul Stamets, sounded like making biofuel with fungi was a no-brainer. I’ve wondered what has happened to his project, but this article would suggest it is a hopeful field of study. Don’t miss comment #1. @Talli calls this project bogus.

2) Taxpayer Funded Sugar-for-Ethanol Program: “U.S. sugar processors have offered to sell 90,150 tonnes of sugar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of its “sugar-for-ethanol” program, designed to reduce an oversupply and boost domestic prices, the government said on Wednesday. The USDA will sell the sugar to ethanol producers, aiming at averting mass forfeitures of sugar that was used as collateral for government-backed loans. The Obama administration inaugurated a program last week to buy unwanted sugar and sell it at a loss to ethanol makers to produce more biofuels and mitigate a costly sugar surplus.”

3) Biobased butanol, butadiene and BDO are having a hot year: Jim Lane tells us “complex, multi-carbon drop-in renewable diesel, jet fuels and biodiesel have been the expansion story for advanced biofuels in the past three years — if any platform could be described as the “hottest of the hottest” right row, four-carbon chemicals and fuels are right in the heart of the roaster right now.” K.M.: Corn growers are no doubt quite hopeful about using corn to produce this drop-in fuel.

BONUS: I highly recommend viewing this slideshow with excellent and informative commentary on no-till and cover-crops.

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

3 thoughts on “3 Picks: Fungi Biofuel, Sugar Ethanol, Biobutanol

  1. K. McDonald Post author

    Talli Somekh ‏@talli shared some facts about this first news item today via twitter. Talli will be writing more on this here in this space soon (to follow).

    Here are @talli’s comments so far…

    That article about fungi+bacteria to make buoh is nonsense. Temp too low for eft. hydrolysis, buoh too toxic for fungi to grow

    Enzymes are most efficient at high temp (50C+) while solvents like ethanol and butanol are more toxic at high temp.

    That’s a fundamental problem with consolidated bioprocessing

    Also, butanol is /extremely/ toxic. No organism can survive in more than 1.8% concentration

    bio-BuOH is a field i’m working extensively in… it’s more promising but at the moment much more difficult to produce than ethanol due to fundamental physical chemistry issues

  2. RBM

    it’s more promising but at the moment much more difficult to produce than ethanol due to fundamental physical chemistry issues

    This observation is similar, as I recall, of Robert Rapiers take on equivalent efforts.

    I like the way Talli writes; give me numbers. Too toxic in comparison ? What are the numbers ?

    Here’s a Google return for consolidated bioprocessing

    1. RBM

      As a matter of fact, from RR’s goodbye post at TOD:

      [quote=”Robert Rapier”]Suffice to say is that I have written that electric cars do offer the only real replacement in the long run for oil that doesn’t enormously restrict our mobility. Biofuels and synthetic fuels do not, as they can cover only a tiny fraction of our consumption.[/quote]

      I’m curious to see if talli is ‘just talking his book’, as a matter of speaking – or if he is just committing cognitive bias in his optimism.


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