I have to say, I’ve been seeing some good stuff lately about biofuels (particularly of the cellulosic* variety), hydrogen, and other less-famous alternative energy solutions (e.g. here). I’m also amazed at how much research is being inspired by biomimetics or implemented with engineering bacteria, but that’s just an awesome aside.
Developments with these other energy options aren’t just fascinating and amazing, they’re an important part of the ‘diversified energy portfolio’ we need to start making. We can’t put all our eggs in one energy solution - I doubt it’d work and it’s just a bad idea - so seeing major progress across diverse energy fields is rather important.
* Cellulosic biofuels are made from the inedible parts of plants, parts which are otherwise usually thrown away. A major advantage of it is that it doesn’t - theoretically - require any land to be diverted from producing food.
P.s. See also this related article about “cracking cellulose’ for use in biofuels.
University of Illinois scientists have engineered a new strain of yeast that converts seaweed into biofuel in half the time it took just months ago…
“The key is the strain’s ability to ferment cellobiose and galactose simultaneously, which makes the process much more efficient,” Jin said… The team introduced a new sugar transporter and enzyme that breaks down cellobiose at the intracellular level. The result is a yeast that consumes cellobiose and galactose in equal amounts at the same time, cutting the production time of biofuel from marine biomass in half, he said…
“It’s a faster, superior process. Our view is that this discovery greatly enhances the economic viability of marine biofuels and gives us a better product,” he added.
Is seaweed a viable biofuel? Jin and his colleagues are using a red variety (Gelidium amansii) that is abundant on the coastlines of Southeast Asia. In island or peninsular nations that don’t have room to grow other biofuel crops, using seaweed as a source of biofuels just makes good sense, he noted… Production yields of marine plant biomass per unit area are much higher than those of terrestrial biomass. And rate of carbon dioxide fixation is much higher in marine biomass, making it an appealing option for sequestration and recycling of carbon dioxide.