• Apr 6th 2010 at 4:05PM
  • 6
Researchers in Spain have demonstrated that they can transform fungus directly into commercial-grade biodiesel.Through a process we admittedly don't pretend to completely understand, the fungus mucor circinelloides is made into ASTM-D6751-spec biodiesel without first having its oils extracted, a process called direct transesterification. For all you home-brew folks, or for those familiar with the process of good, old-fashioned transesterification, this all sounds pretty cool.
Oils from lots of different oleaginous (oily) microorganisms are being looked at as possible biodiesel feedstock alternatives to plant-based, and especially food-crop-based oil sources like soybeans. Microalgae are the most well-known of these organisms, but the list also includes yeasts, bacteria and fungi like the above mentioned m. cicinelloides.

As with many alternative biodiesel feedstocks, scalability is an issue at the moment, but the team in Spain believes that could be overcome by genetic manipulation of the fungus to produce higher lipid content (which means more oil in the fungus). Direct transesterification is already providing greater yields than expected, which could help make biodiesel from m.circinelloides profitable down the road.

[Source: Green Car Congress | Image: Skidrd - C.C. License 2.0]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      Not only is scalability a problem with biodiesel, but it is inferior environmentally to the other major diesel alternative: DME (di methyl ether).

      While Biodiesel emits less smoke, soot, and particulate matter (SSPM) than petro-diesel, DME emits no SSPM at all. That's huge, as anyone in Los Angeles, Houston, Mexico City, or Beijing could tell you, since SSPM is the cause of smog, and smog kills 40,000 Americans a year, according to the EPA.

      DME has far less of a scalability problem, because it is made from reacting methanol to itself, and methanol has a staggeringly vast feedstock available, from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, to trash such as styrofoam, and any biomass without exception, including crop residues, invasive weed plants, and waste such as sewage.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Does it really make a difference where we Americans are killed? E. g. in Irak, Afghanistan or in smog saturated cities in the US. Dead is dead! Perhaps death is more noble in one of the mentioned countries than croaking slowly in the own lethal environment.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Problem is DME doesnt kill 40,000 Americans already putting a toll
        on its health system and the rest of Americans.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I have no problem, in principle, with getting any relatively clean fuel from sources that would otherwise go to waste. Carney makes good points there. That's also why I like some synthetic motor oils, since they are based upon renewable sources or waste products, like the offal from rendering plants.

        However, I only see these biofuels as a replacement for things like jet fuel, diesel train locomotives, generators, etc. - big things where battery tech is behind, and backup systems, for when the electricity goes out. I don't like it as the replacement of gas and diesel in everyday life. ICE is the problem. We need to eliminate burning of any fuel as much as possible.

        I'm particularly vehemently against E85 made from food stocks, especially corn. Corn-based anything should be #1 on the Top 10 most greenwashed of alternative propulsion.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Time to think, corn ethanol is not the sole solution, but it gets a bad rap.

        Production of food corn and other staple crops has risen, not fallen, at the same time that ethanol corn production has risen several hundred percent.

        More than half our farmland is uncultivated, we pay farmers not to farm, and young people leave rural areas because there is no work - fewer farmers each year produce more food, fiber, fuel, and feed. Just from 2002 - 2007, per acre corn yields went up 17%.

        So there is huge unused slack capacity in our ag sector, in manpower, land, resources, etc. for massive expansion of ethanol corn without in any way reducing or even threatening the food supply.

        Don't be fooled by food vs. fuel myth-making. The UAE hired a top DC PR firm for this purpose, various oil-funded think tank spread already-discredited studies, etc.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I think the research should be heading in the direction of those biodiesel type fuels that are close enough chemically to petrodiesel that they can be a direct substitute in any place petrodiesel can be used.

      That way, cars dont need to be engineered to support the fuel and (if the fuel is close enough chemically) could run on 100% biodiesel without ever needing petrodiesel.

      Of course, all those who invested big bucks in manufacturing plants for the current inferior biodiesel processes are not going to let their products be made obsolete and will fight the better newer processes.
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