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Biofuels from microbes: a comprehensive view.

Rojo F - Microb Biotechnol (2008)

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Departamento de Biotecnología Microbiana, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC, Campus de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain. frojo@cnb.uam.es

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Wackett on microbial‐based fuels that brings into focus an emerging field of research in biotechnology that is becoming increasingly important... The demand is continuously increasing and will continue to do so as economic growth goes on... However, the supplies are limited and the discovery of new reserves does not match the increasing needs... However, when considering all costs from generation of the biomass to the production of the final product, it becomes clear that yields and costs are a problem to solve... The success of biofuels will rely in finding cost‐effective processes to generate biomass‐derived compounds with physicochemical properties that allow them to serve as substitutes for oil‐derived fuels... However, many bacteria, plants and animals produce hydrocarbons for different means... This is why it is so frequent to find hydrocarbon‐degrading microorganisms; they do not normally live on the hydrocarbons derived from man‐made crude oil spills, but on those produced naturally by plants and algae... Other low‐molecular‐weight carbon compounds such as ethanol or butanol, or fatty acid alcohol esters (biodiesel), are good candidates as well, and are in fact currently finding their way into the markets... The biodiesel that is starting to be used in some countries for car engines is produced from renewable biomass by alkali‐catalysed transesterification of triacylglycerols from plant oils with alcohols such as methanol or ethanol, yielding monoalkyl esters of long‐chain fatty acids... However, some problems are that the methanol used at present for transesterification is produced from fossil fuels, and that a substantial increase in biodiesel production would require the use of bulk plant materials such as cellulose, rather than plant oils... Some microalgae have oil productivities that greatly exceeds that of the best‐producing oil crops, and may well constitute a renewable source of oils for the subsequent synthesis of biodiesel... Hydrogen is also a promising fuel (reviewed in )... It has a higher energy content than oil and its oxidation product, water, does not create an environmental problem... Wackett's review provides a clear and comprehensive view on the current advances and possible new directions... It is a great challenge, but it is worth the effort.

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Biofuels generated by microorganisms. Burning of fossil fuels releases CO2 to the atmosphere, generating a net increase in the concentration of this gas and contributing to global warming (dotted lines). Part of this CO2 can be fixed by plants or by photosynthetic microorganisms (dashed lines). Some microorganisms, using either CO2 (photosynthetic) or biomass as carbon source, can generate a number of carbon compounds that are useful as fuels (shaded in grey). Burning of these biofuels is neutral for global warming, as the CO2 generated ultimately derives from CO2 previously fixed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. A challenge of biotechnology is to allow producing these compounds in a sustainable and economically feasible way.
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f1: Biofuels generated by microorganisms. Burning of fossil fuels releases CO2 to the atmosphere, generating a net increase in the concentration of this gas and contributing to global warming (dotted lines). Part of this CO2 can be fixed by plants or by photosynthetic microorganisms (dashed lines). Some microorganisms, using either CO2 (photosynthetic) or biomass as carbon source, can generate a number of carbon compounds that are useful as fuels (shaded in grey). Burning of these biofuels is neutral for global warming, as the CO2 generated ultimately derives from CO2 previously fixed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. A challenge of biotechnology is to allow producing these compounds in a sustainable and economically feasible way.

Mentions: Biofuels are not really new, because for example wood has been and it is still being used as an energy source. Modern technologies, however, and biotechnology in particular, are making big efforts to transform biomass from diverse sources into compounds that can serve as efficient fuels at a cost that can compete with current crude oil prices. Burning these biomass‐derived compounds will release to the atmosphere CO2 that had been previously fixed by photosynthesis, which makes them neutral from the point of view of global warming (Fig. 1). In addition, biomass would be a renewable and sustainable source of fuels. However, when considering all costs from generation of the biomass to the production of the final product, it becomes clear that yields and costs are a problem to solve. The success of biofuels will rely in finding cost‐effective processes to generate biomass‐derived compounds with physicochemical properties that allow them to serve as substitutes for oil‐derived fuels. This is not trivial. The review by L.P. Wackett puts together aspects of the problem that are normally discussed separately: a comprehensive description of known biological processes generating compounds potentially useful as biofuels, and the economical aspects regarding their practical implementation as a solution to current needs.


Biofuels from microbes: a comprehensive view.

Rojo F - Microb Biotechnol (2008)

Biofuels generated by microorganisms. Burning of fossil fuels releases CO2 to the atmosphere, generating a net increase in the concentration of this gas and contributing to global warming (dotted lines). Part of this CO2 can be fixed by plants or by photosynthetic microorganisms (dashed lines). Some microorganisms, using either CO2 (photosynthetic) or biomass as carbon source, can generate a number of carbon compounds that are useful as fuels (shaded in grey). Burning of these biofuels is neutral for global warming, as the CO2 generated ultimately derives from CO2 previously fixed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. A challenge of biotechnology is to allow producing these compounds in a sustainable and economically feasible way.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3815882&req=5

f1: Biofuels generated by microorganisms. Burning of fossil fuels releases CO2 to the atmosphere, generating a net increase in the concentration of this gas and contributing to global warming (dotted lines). Part of this CO2 can be fixed by plants or by photosynthetic microorganisms (dashed lines). Some microorganisms, using either CO2 (photosynthetic) or biomass as carbon source, can generate a number of carbon compounds that are useful as fuels (shaded in grey). Burning of these biofuels is neutral for global warming, as the CO2 generated ultimately derives from CO2 previously fixed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. A challenge of biotechnology is to allow producing these compounds in a sustainable and economically feasible way.
Mentions: Biofuels are not really new, because for example wood has been and it is still being used as an energy source. Modern technologies, however, and biotechnology in particular, are making big efforts to transform biomass from diverse sources into compounds that can serve as efficient fuels at a cost that can compete with current crude oil prices. Burning these biomass‐derived compounds will release to the atmosphere CO2 that had been previously fixed by photosynthesis, which makes them neutral from the point of view of global warming (Fig. 1). In addition, biomass would be a renewable and sustainable source of fuels. However, when considering all costs from generation of the biomass to the production of the final product, it becomes clear that yields and costs are a problem to solve. The success of biofuels will rely in finding cost‐effective processes to generate biomass‐derived compounds with physicochemical properties that allow them to serve as substitutes for oil‐derived fuels. This is not trivial. The review by L.P. Wackett puts together aspects of the problem that are normally discussed separately: a comprehensive description of known biological processes generating compounds potentially useful as biofuels, and the economical aspects regarding their practical implementation as a solution to current needs.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Departamento de Biotecnología Microbiana, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC, Campus de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain. frojo@cnb.uam.es

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

Wackett on microbial‐based fuels that brings into focus an emerging field of research in biotechnology that is becoming increasingly important... The demand is continuously increasing and will continue to do so as economic growth goes on... However, the supplies are limited and the discovery of new reserves does not match the increasing needs... However, when considering all costs from generation of the biomass to the production of the final product, it becomes clear that yields and costs are a problem to solve... The success of biofuels will rely in finding cost‐effective processes to generate biomass‐derived compounds with physicochemical properties that allow them to serve as substitutes for oil‐derived fuels... However, many bacteria, plants and animals produce hydrocarbons for different means... This is why it is so frequent to find hydrocarbon‐degrading microorganisms; they do not normally live on the hydrocarbons derived from man‐made crude oil spills, but on those produced naturally by plants and algae... Other low‐molecular‐weight carbon compounds such as ethanol or butanol, or fatty acid alcohol esters (biodiesel), are good candidates as well, and are in fact currently finding their way into the markets... The biodiesel that is starting to be used in some countries for car engines is produced from renewable biomass by alkali‐catalysed transesterification of triacylglycerols from plant oils with alcohols such as methanol or ethanol, yielding monoalkyl esters of long‐chain fatty acids... However, some problems are that the methanol used at present for transesterification is produced from fossil fuels, and that a substantial increase in biodiesel production would require the use of bulk plant materials such as cellulose, rather than plant oils... Some microalgae have oil productivities that greatly exceeds that of the best‐producing oil crops, and may well constitute a renewable source of oils for the subsequent synthesis of biodiesel... Hydrogen is also a promising fuel (reviewed in )... It has a higher energy content than oil and its oxidation product, water, does not create an environmental problem... Wackett's review provides a clear and comprehensive view on the current advances and possible new directions... It is a great challenge, but it is worth the effort.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus