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Fungus among us could become non-food source for biodiesel production

Thu, 09/16/2010 - 5:24pm
Science Daily

That's the topic of a study in ACS' journal Energy & Fuels.

Victoriano Garre and colleagues point out that manufacturers usually produce biodiesel fuel from plant oils -- such as rapeseed, palm, and soy. However, expanded production from those sources could foster shortages that mean rising food prices. In addition, oilseeds require scare farmland, and costly fertilizers and pesticides. To meet growing demand for biodiesel fuel, scientists are looking for oil sources other than plants. Microorganisms such as fungi, which take little space to grow, are ideal candidates. But scientists first must find fungi that produce larger amounts of oil.

In the study, scientists describe a process for converting oil from an abundant producer called Mucor circinelloides into biodiesel without even extracting oil from the growth cultures. The resulting fungus-based biodiesel meets commercial specifications in the United States and Europe and production could be scaled to commercial levels, they note.

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