Monday, 11 June 2012

Fuel Made From Woody Plant Material Using Aspergillus terreus

A research group in India has been looking for the best fungal strain to use as the basis of a project to develop biodiesel from plant material that is often thrown away as it is difficult to eat & digest as food for human or animal consumption. This is important to prevent the demand for fuel competing with the demand for food in the developing world - several existing alternatives use crops that can be used for food e.g. soya.

Khot et. al. have searched for isolates adapted to the process of digesting woody material in mangrove swamps, areas where there are already known to be rich in fungal species that can efficiently digest wood.

Oleaginous (oil producing) micro-organisms store oils within their cells as part of their normal process of storing energy for growth. If we can find food for them that we don't use then they will digest material we do not use and turn it into oils that we can use as fuel - all with very little need for energy.

Khot found several isolates from mangrove swamps that happily digested decomposing woody material and turned it into large amounts of oil - and the most efficient with the highest levels of oil produced (greater than 20% of their weight was oil) was an isolate of Aspergillus terreus. It is proposed to use this isolate to further explore the possibility of efficiently generating fuel from waste plant matter.

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