Thanks to Zymomonas MobilisWednesday 4th February 2015
Indiana University (IU) biologists believe they have found a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to increase bioethanol production by using nitrogen gas, the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, in place of more costly industrial fertilizers. The discovery could save the industry millions of dollars and make cellulosic ethanol – made from wood, grasses and inedible parts of plants – more competitive with corn ethanol and gasoline.
The raw materials for cellulosic ethanol are low in nitrogen, a nutrient required for ethanol-producing microbes to grow, so cellulosic ethanol producers are estimated to spend millions of dollars annually on nitrogen fertilizers like corn steep liquor and diammonium phosphate. But an IU team has found that the bioethanol-producing bacterium Zymomonas mobilis can use nitrogen gas (N2) as a nitrogen source, something that the more traditional ethanol-producer, baker’s yeast, cannot do.
Knowing the bacterium could use N2 without hindering ethanol production, the team reasoned that N2 gas could serve as an inexpensive substitute for nitrogen fertilizers during cellulosic ethanol production.
They estimated that using N2 gas, which can be produced on-site at production facilities, in place of costly nitrogen supplements could save an ethanol production facility over $1 million dollars a year. Using N2 gas could also have environmental benefits such as avoiding carbon dioxide emissions associated with producing and transporting the industrial fertilizers.
The results for something that could prove to be very efficient and cost effective in producing bioethanol, and hence replacing fossil fuels, has come about by accident - how often that is the case.
Wednesday 4th February 2015