Monday, March 29, 2010

Sugar-hungry Yeast to Boost Biofuel Production.

Monday, March 29, 2010

UK - Engineering yeast to transform sugars more efficiently into alcohols could be an economically and environmentally sound way to replace fossil fuels, say scientists presenting at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh.

Dr Christian Weber and Professor Eckhard Boles from Frankfurt University, Germany, have worked out how to modify yeast cells so that they successfully convert a wider range of sugars from plant waste such as wheat and rice straw into alcohol that can be used as biofuel.

Bioalcohols produced by microbial fermentations are an example of second generation biofuels that use raw materials not used in food production.
Plant waste is available in large amounts and contains a mixture of complex sugars including hexoses and pentoses that can be fermented to alcohol.

"As these feedstocks represent the biggest portion of processing costs, we need rapid and efficient conversion of all sugars present. At the moment there is a lack of microbes that will efficiently convert both hexoses and pentoses into ethanol," said Dr Weber.

Bakers' yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is already used in the beverage industry to efficiently convert hexose sugars, such as glucose, into ethanol. By transferring genes from bacteria that naturally break down pentose, Dr Weber's team have engineered S. cerevisiae to successfully ferment pentose and hexose sugars.

"As pentoses represent a substantial part of the feedstock, the engineered yeast gives a much higher yield of ethanol for the same amount of feedstock," he said.
To enhance their biofuel potential even more, the yeast is being further modified to produce another bioalcohol - butanol instead of ethanol.

"Compared to ethanol, butanol shows superior properties as a potential biofuel."
It has a lower vapour pressure, ignites at a higher temperature and is less corrosive. Butanol could replace fossil fuels up to 100 per cent without modifying existing engines," said Professor Boles.

BUTALCO is a company started by Professor Boles together with chemist Dr Gunter Festel that is developing a special technology to modify the yeast for pentose use and butanol production. The company is currently finalising the technology to use both pentoses and hexoses for bioethanol manufacture. Eventually a whole process chain will be developed covering all the steps of bioalcohol production from engineering through to downstream processing.

TheBioenergySite News Desk

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Masdar: Abu Dhabi's carbon-neutral city. BBC News

By Tom Heap
Presenter, Radio 4's Costing The Earth

The world's first zero-carbon city is being built in Abu Dhabi and is designed to be not only free of cars and skyscrapers but also powered by the sun.

The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is the last place you would expect to learn lessons on low-carbon living, but the emerging eco-city of Masdar could teach the world.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Biggie Smalls: Microbes and micro-crops shine at biofuels’ Big Dance.

Today marks the beginning of biofuels’ three-day “Big Dance” – properly known as World Biofuels Markets - and 1400 delegates are gathering in Amsterdam to talk about big breakthroughs, big bucks and big scale. But the key to thinking big in biofuels, 2010 style, is thinking very, very small.

Though the stakes could not be bigger, the pop stars that will be gliding across biofuels’ Red Carpet this week are so incredibly tiny it can take an electron microcrope to see them, as the latest designer e.coli, yeast and enzyme strains take a turn down the runway.

The microbes divide into three main camps – those that are used to capture sugars and oils for extraction and fuel conversion (a.g. microalgae, lemon); catalysts such as the enzymes produced by Genencor and Novozymes, and microbes that consume a feedstock and secrete a fuel (not completely unlike the cow, who consumes hay and emits methane, but in a far more elemental and fungible way than simple rumination). LS9, Amyris, Qteros and Joule Biotechnologie are among those who have such a “magic bug,” – by far, Joule’s is the most mysterious to date – but it is the only one who can make a fuel from carbon oxide and water, rather than a simple sugar.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

India Announces Coal Tax To Fund Renewable Energy Projects. ScientificAmerican

March 4, 2010
In a landmark announcement the Indian Finance Minister, in his annual Budget speech, put forward the proposal of setting of National Clean Energy Fund which would be constituted through tax lieved on coal usage in the country.
By: Mridul Chadha

In a landmark announcement the Indian Finance Minister, in his annual Budget speech, put forward the proposal of setting of National Clean Energy Fund which would be constituted through tax lieved on coal usage in the country. The quantum of tax would be INR 50 per ton of coal used, which would generate an annual revenue of around $600 million.

The announcement is extremely important and a major step in India’s endeavor to promote renewable energy infrastructure. India is heavily dependent on coal for power generation with 75% of the power generated coming from coal-fired power plants.

The National Clean Energy Fund would provide finance for the National Solar Mission through which India plans to install 20,000 MW of solar energy by 2022. If implemented the project would potentially make India the largest producer of solar energy worldwide. The finances for such an enormous project has aways been a major hurdle. Ever since its announcement the government has been looking at various options to finance the project.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Norwegian Company Develops World’s Largest Wind Turbine. AlternativeEnergy

March 1st, 2010

As fossil fuels continue to diminish and climate change poses an ever-increasing threat, scientists around the world are searching for new and more efficient methods of generating energy. Wind energy is one of the more promising alternative energy sources and Norwegian scientists are currently in the development stages of what promises to be the world’s largest wind turbine. As if creating the biggest wind turbine in the world was not enough, it also floats. Current plans for the world’s largest wind turbine have the machine standing 533 feet tall.

The proposed rotor diameter of this machine is 475 feet. Obviously, these gargantuan dimensions make it difficult to imagine many places able to accommodate such a device. Fortunately, the floating design makes the turbine suitable for open ocean use.

In addition to being the world’s largest wind turbine, the proposed machine (which is to be built by the Norwegian company Sway), will also be the most powerful. A single floating turbine will be able to generate 10-megawatts to power more than 2,000 homes. These figures make this proposed new design at least three times more powerful than the existing wind turbines in use today.

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