Fungi Discovered in Patagonia Rainforest Could Be Used to Make Biodiesel

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American scientists have discovered a fungus deep in the Patagonian rainforest that makes biodiesel as part of its natural lifecycle. The fungus is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel sources.

According to team member Prof. Gary Strobel of Montana State University, “The fungus can even make these diesel compounds from cellulose, which would make it a better source of biofuel than anything we use at the moment.”

In its natural habitat the fungus, which the team have labelled Gliocladium Roseum, produces several different molecules that have been shown to contain long chain hydrocarbons of the type found in diesel. However, when the team grew the fungi under laboratory conditions it produced a biofuel that is even more similar to the diesel used in cars.

G. Roseum can even be used to make myco-diesel directly from cellulose, meaning that, if the fungus were to be used for large scale biodiesel production, a complete step in the production process could be skipped. The experiments have completely astounded the team. Speaking about the outcome, Prof. Strobel said, “The results were totally unexpected and very exciting and almost every hair on my arms stood on end.”

This is a fertile period for discoveries in the field of non-food based biofuel. Earlier this week, a team of scientists in Thailand reported the discovery of a new algae species that they are confident can be used to manufacture biodiesel.

Image Credit – tauntingpanda via flickr.com on a Creative Commons license

 

Andrew Williams

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.