Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

New, Fossil-fuel-free Process Makes Biodiesel Sustainable

Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014
Bookmark and Share
A new fuel-cell concept, developed by a Michigan State University researcher, will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process.

The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors.

“With a saturated glycerol market, traditional approaches see producers pay hefty fees to have toxic wastewater hauled off to treatment plants,” she said. “By cleaning the water with microbes on-site, we’ve come up with a way to allow producers to generate bioethanol, which replaces petrochemical methanol. At the same time, they are taking care of their hazardous waste problem.”

The results, which appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, show that the key to Reguera’s platform is her patented adaptive-engineered bacteria – Geobacter sulfurreducens.

Geobacter are naturally occurring microbes that have proved promising in cleaning up nuclear waste as well in improving other biofuel processes. Much of Reguera’s research with these bacteria focuses on engineering their conductive pili or nanowires. These hair-like appendages are the managers of electrical activity during a cleanup and biofuel production.

First, Reguera, along with lead authors and MSU graduate students Allison Speers and Jenna Young, evolved Geobacter to withstand increasing amounts of toxic glycerol. The next step, the team searched for partner bacteria that could ferment it into ethanol while generating byproducts that ‘fed’ the Geobacter.

“It took some tweaking, but we eventually developed a robust bacterium to pair with Geobacter,” Reguera said. “We matched them up like dance partners, modifying each of them to work seamlessly together and eliminate all of the waste.”

Together, the bacteria’s appetite for the toxic byproducts is inexhaustible.

“They feast like they’re at a Las Vegas buffet,” she added. “One bacterium ferments the glycerol waste to produce bioethanol, which can be reused to make biodiesel from oil feedstocks. Geobacter removes any waste produced during glycerol fermentation to generate electricity. It is a win-win situation.”

The hungry microbes are the featured component of Reguera’s microbial electrolysis cells, or MECs. These fuel cells do not harvest electricity as an output. Rather, they use a small electrical input platform to generate hydrogen and increase the MEC’s efficiency even more.

The promising process already has caught the eye of economic developers, who are helping scale up the effort. Through a Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization grant, Reguera and her team are developing prototypes that can handle larger volumes of waste.

Reguera also is in talks with MBI, the bio-based technology “de-risking” enterprise operated by the MSU Foundation, to develop industrial-sized units that could handle the capacities of a full-scale biodiesel plant. The next step will be field tests with a Michigan-based biodiesel manufacturer.




Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,100+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

MSU to Lead $6.5 Million Research on Disease Resistance in Cucurbits
A national team of 20 scientists led by Michigan State University has been awarded $6.5 million grant to accelerate the development of disease-resistant cucurbit crops through leveraging applied genomics.
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Perennial Biofuel Crops’ Water Consumption Similar to Corn
A recent study looks at how efficiently “second-generation” biofuel crops—perennial, non-food crops such as switchgrass or native grasses—use rainwater and how these crops affect overall water balance.
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
MSU Leads Largest Soil DNA Sequencing Effort
Study also created a new analytic approach, which makes interpreting the data much easier.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
How Do You Feed 9 Billion People?
An international team of scientists has developed crop models to better forecast food production to feed a growing population in the face of climate change.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Hormone could boost plant immune systems
The discovery of a hormone acting like molecular glue could hold a key to bolstering plant immune systems and understanding how plants cope with environmental stress.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Researchers discover mechanism protecting plants against freezing
MSU biochemists helps explain how plants protect themselves from freezing temperatures and could lead to discoveries related to plant tolerance for drought and other extreme conditions.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Scientific News
World’s Largest Coral Gene Database
‘Genetic toolkit’ will help shed light on which species survive climate change.
A Peachy Defense System for Seeds
ETH chemists are developing a new coating method to protect seeds from being eaten by insects. In doing so, they have drawn inspiration from the humble peach and a few of its peers.
Roundup Impacts Gene Expression
Study published on the impact of low-dose toxicity of Roundup weed-killer on gene expression profiles.
Meaningful Part of Maize Genome Defined
FSU-Cornell team show that a small percentage of the maize genome is responsible for 40 percent of a plant’s trait diversity.
Plant Stem Cell Discovery Points to Increased Yields
Braking signals from the leaves tell stem cells to stop proliferating.
Plasma Dose Improves Agricultural Crop Harvests
Researchers at Japan have developed a technique to improve crop yields by treating seeds prior to planting with a safe dose of plasma radiation.
TGAC Installs Largest SGI UV 300 Supercomputer for Life Sciences
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) partners with Global HPC hardware giant SGI to address the most complex problems in genomics analysis.
Carrot Genome Uncovered
Carrot genome paints picture of domestication, could help improve crops.
Flowering Regulation Mechanism Discovered
Monash researchers have discovered a new mechanism that enables plants to regulate their flowering in response to raised temperatures.
Nanoparticles Present Sustainable Way to Grow Food Crops
Nanoparticle technology can help reduce the need for fertilizer, creating a more sustainable way to grow crops such as mung beans.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,100+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,500+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!