Latest Developments in Biofuels R and D

The bioenergysite website recently made a list of the latest in biofuel research and development: (1) Algal photobioreactors made of plastic from permeable, "forward-osmosis" membranes: The reactors (developed by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Agency, NASA) are large plastic bags which can be filled with wastewater, which serves as a culture medium for the growth of algae. The algae grow on the wastewater medium, and the cleaned water seeps through the one-way semi-permeable membrane. The algae can then be harvest for further processing into biofuels and other useful materials; (2) Tobacco as biodiesel feedstock: Scientists at the Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories at Thomas Jefferson University have successfully modified a tobacco plant that produces oil in the leaves; the modified plant had 20% higher oil yield compared to the unmodified plant, (3) Cyanobacteria which converts carbon dioixde and sunlight, directly into biofuel isobutanol. The organism, developed by a team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), uses a "direct route" for fuel conversion. The organism directly produces the biofuel, instead of being "intermediately" processed for biofuel production. The direct-route can substantially reduce the production cost of the biofuel, (4) A strain of E. coli which directly converts simple sugars into biodiesel, alcohol and waxes (plus the enzyme, hemicellulase): This "L9" strain was developed by researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) of the United States Department of Energy (US-DOE), (5) A new and more cost-effective cellulase for cellulose ethanol production: Novozymes (an enzyme company) developed "Cellic CTec2" enzymes, could reportedly enable the biofuel industry "to produce cellulosic ethanol at a price below $2 per gallon for the initial commercial-scale plants that are scheduled to be in operation in 2011"..


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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