Microbes fuel energy debate

Jan 22, 2009

Microbes may well be the answer to our global energy crisis. By fermenting biomass to produce biofuels, they offer a possible climate-friendly solution to the anticipated shortfall in fossil fuel supply. A review by Professor Arnold Demain from Drew University in New Jersey, USA, on how microbes could be used to salvage the energy crisis has just been published online Springer's Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology.

According to Professor Demain, the petroleum-based economy in the US is getting close to the end of its lifecycle. Global oil reserves and new petroleum discoveries will not be enough to meet the annual demand worldwide. It is therefore essential to anticipate and avoid any shortfall in future supply and to provide access to new bioenergy alternatives for the marketplace.

In the context of a strong global political and economical debate on the gradual substitution of petroleum by renewable alternatives such as biofuels, Demain reviews how microbes can help solve the energy problem, and focuses on the organisms that ferment lignocellulosic biomass to produce bioethanol, biobutanol, biodiesel and biohydrocarbons in particular. His review also highlights how the use of these biofuels would help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plants that produce the biomass remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as part of their growth and normal metabolism.

Demain also highlights a number of important commercial developments, including the establishment of biotechnology companies in the biofuel sector since 2006, either alone or with companies of the petroleum and chemical industries. In addition, there have been a number of U.S. Government initiatives pushing for and backing the development of biofuels.

Demain concludes that: "What remains is a major effort and challenge to biochemical engineering at the many new plants being built for biofuel production. The new processes have to be scaled up and carried out in a cost-effective way. The future of biofuels looks very bright…the best is yet to come."

Source: Springer

Explore further: Q&A: Why are antibiotics used in livestock?

Related Stories

Chitosan, a sustainable alternative for food packaging

Jan 09, 2015

Riverbanks and oceans are full of plastic; there are bits of this material in the organism of a large number of fish, etc. Packaging and wrappers made from petroleum by-products are seriously damaging the ...

Boosting biogasoline production in microbes

Oct 27, 2014

In the on-going effort to develop advanced biofuels as a clean, green and sustainable source of liquid transportation fuels, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Joint BioEnergy Institute ...

Discovery opens doors to building better plants

Sep 25, 2014

(Phys.org) —The survival of the vast majority of plants, including those that people rely on for food, depends on their ability to build strong but flexible cell walls. A key component of these walls is ...

Recommended for you

Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

5 hours ago

Many animals feed on seeds, acorns or nuts. The common feature of these are that they have shells and there is no direct way to know what's inside. How do the animals know how much and what quality of food ...

Q&A: Why are antibiotics used in livestock?

20 hours ago

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, is the latest company to ask its suppliers to curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Here's a rundown of what's driving the decision: ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.