Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have identified two main challenges for renewable biofuel production from cheap sources: lowering the cost of developing microbial cell factories; and establishing more efficient methods for hydrolysis of biomass to sugars for fermentation. In a paper published in the journal Nature Energy, the... Read more →


Tokyo Tech researchers ID enzyme that could boost algal biofuel production

Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology have identified an enzyme belonging to the glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (GPAT) family as a promising target for increasing biofuel production from the red alga Cyanidioschyzon merolae. Algae can store up large amounts of triacylglycerols (TAGs) under adverse conditions such as nitrogen deprivation. Understanding precisely how... Read more →


Researchers engineer yeast to tolerate ionic liquid used in biomass pretreatment for biofuel production

Ionic liquids—neutral salts that attain a liquid state at temperatures mostly below 100 ˚C—are very effective in the pretreatment of biomass to make its cellulose highly accessible to cellulase enzymes that hydrolyze it into glucose for fermentation by microbes. However, ionic liquids are toxic to biofuel-producing microbes such as the... Read more →


Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, with colleagues at NREL and the University of Georgia report that a freshwater production strain of microalgae, Auxenochlorella protothecoides UTEX 25, is capable of directly degrading and utilizing non-food plant substrates, such as switchgrass, for cell growth. In addition, the use of plant substrates... Read more →


UNL-led team greatly increases hydrogen production by T maritima; breaking the theoretical limit

Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), with colleagues from North Carolina State University and the University of Connecticut, have engineered the hyperthermophilic anaerobe Thermotoga maritima to produce 46% more hydrogen per cell than the wild type. The team’s highest reported yield—5.7 units of hydrogen for every unit of glucose... Read more →


Global Bioenergies successfully moves its C3 process to demo scale; isopropanol and acetone from renewable resources

Global Bioenergies has reached a new milestone in scaling up its C3 process converting renewable resources into isopropanol and acetone. (Earlier post.) These two biobased compounds target large markets in the cosmetics and solvent segments. They can also be converted into polypropylene, a key component in the plastics industry, with... Read more →


New genetic engineering technique improves enzyme’s ability to breakdown biomass

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Georgia have developed a new genetic engineering technique significantly to improve an enzyme’s ability to break down biomass. A paper on the work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences... Read more →


DOE awarding $40M to 31 projects to advance use of microbes in production of biofuels and bioproducts

The US Department of Energy will award $40 million in funding for 31 projects to advance research in the development of microbes as practical platforms for the production of biofuels and other bioproducts from renewable resources. Over the past decade, DOE-supported scientists have identified and modified a wide range of... Read more →


US researchers demo separation-free, IL-based process for conversion of biomass to advanced biofuel

Researchers from three US national labs (Berkeley, Pacific Northwest and Sandia) has demonstrated a separation-free, ionic-liquid (IL)-based process to convert biomass to an advanced biofuel (the sesquiterpene bisabolene). The process, described in an open access paper in the RSC journal Green Chemistry, is also the first to demonstrate full consumption... Read more →


Key enzyme for production of second-generation ethanol discovered in Brazilian Amazon

Researchers have discovered a novel enzyme (a β-glucosidase) in microorganisms living in the Brazilian Amazon that could boost efficiency of the sugarcane bagasse saccharification process, which accounts for up to 50% of the global costs of cellulosic ethanol production. The team isolated, characterized and reproduced the enzyme, proving it to... Read more →


Researchers from Virginia Tech developed an in vitro artificial enzymatic pathway that can produce hydrogen at extremely high rates by splitting water energized by carbohydrates (e.g., starch). As reported in a paper in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the pathway delivered up to a 1,000-fold enhancement in volumetric... Read more →


New protocol to enhance photosynthetic production of hydrogen from green algae

A research group from the University of Turku, Finland, has developed a new protocol to deliver sustained hydrogen photoproduction in green algae under a train of strong white light pulses interrupted by longer dark phases. As reported in a paper in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, under the... Read more →


BuG ReMeDEE project seeks to use extremophile bacteria to convert methane to biofuels, biopolymers and electricity

Researchers from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSMT) are heading a project to to investigate methane cycling in deep and extreme environments and to develop new biological routes using previously unexplored and novel microorganisms from extreme environments for converting methane into value-added products such as liquid biofuels, biopolymers,... Read more →


Researchers in the US, China and Taiwan have developed a new systems biology model that mimics the process of wood formation, allowing scientists to predict the effects of switching on and off the 21 (at least) pathway genes involved in producing lignin, a primary component of wood. The model, built... Read more →


Brookhaven researchers improve understanding of how plants regulate oil synthesis; potential for more abundant bio-fuels and -products

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered new details about biomolecules that retard oil production in plants. The findings suggest that disabling these biomolecular brakes could accelerate oil production and lead to a possible pathway toward generating abundant biofuels and plant-derived bioproducts. The open-access study... Read more →


A team of engineers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) recently discovered that a naturally occurring bacterium, Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum TG57, isolated from waste generated after harvesting mushrooms, is capable of directly converting cellulose to biobutanol. In an open-access paper in the journal Science Advances, the research team, led by... Read more →


JBEI enzyme discovery enables first microbial production of aromatic hydrocarbon toluene, a widely used octane booster

Researchers at the US Department of Energy Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered a new enzyme that will enable microbial production of a renewable alternative to petroleum-based toluene, a widely used octane booster in gasoline that has a global market of 29 million... Read more →


Researchers at Princeton University have used light to control genetically modified Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast—i.e., optogenetic control—and to increase its output of commercially valuable chemicals. In a paper in the journal Nature, the researchers reported that they used light to increase yeast’s production of the chemical isobutanol as much as 5... Read more →


Novel microbial biosensor platforms for early detection and treatment of oil leakage and produced waters

Researchers at Mississippi State University are developing technology that would alert pipeline managers about leaks as soon as failure begins, avoiding the environmental disasters and fuel distribution disruptions resulting from pipeline leaks. The biosensor uses exoelectrogenic bacteria in an anode that survive on organic matter and a photo or autotrophic,... Read more →


Novozymes has unveiled its new yeast platform for starch-based ethanol, while also introducing the first product, Innova Drive. A completely new yeast strain, the product can reduce fermentation time by up to two hours compared to current yeasts. The new yeast is also tougher, continuing to ferment in adverse conditions... Read more →


Lawrence Livermore partners with GALT on $1.5M project to improve biofuel algae

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been awarded a 3-year, $1.5-million grant by the US Department of Energy to improve the growth and efficiency of biofuel-producing algae through the alteration of their microbiomes. LLNL will partner with San Francisco-based General Automation Lab Technologies (GALT) in the use of a novel high-throughput... Read more →


Global Bioenergies starts scale-up of its second process: renewable acetone and isopropanol

Global Bioenergies has started the scale-up phase of a process converting renewable resources into acetone and isopropanol. The markets for both these 3-carbon compounds are well established and worth billions of dollars. In a further process, these two compounds can be converted to propylene, a key petrochemical building block with... Read more →


NREL-led research could lead to improved enzyme performance to break down biomass for renewable fuels

A team led by researchers from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have gained new insights into how glycosylation—the natural attachment of sugars to proteins—affects a key cellulase enzyme. This work could be used to improve enzyme performance to better break down biomass and convert... Read more →


Sekisui, a multibillion dollar Japanese diversified chemicals company and LanzaTech report making significant progress on a waste-to-chemicals platform converting municipal solid waste (MSW) to ethanol or other new products. Today, many MSW streams are incinerated or super-heated to produce a synthesis gas made up of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which... Read more →


Lygos partners with Agile BioFoundry and DOE to accelerate bioproduct R&D and commercialization; two-year, $5M pilot collaboration

Lygos announced that the US Department of Energy is providing multi-year funding for Lygos’ collaboration with the Agile BioFoundry (ABF) to automate research technology. Lygos’ pilot collaboration is part of a multi-company two-year, $5-million effort coordinated by the ABF. Lygos produces high-value specialty chemical traditionally produced in oil-based petrochemical processes... Read more →


J. Craig Venter Institute-led team awarded $10.7M by DOE to boost lipid production in diatoms for next-gen biofuels and bioproducts

Scientists led by the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, were recently awarded a 5-year, $10.7-million grant by the United States Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research (BER), BER Genomic Science Program to optimize metabolic networks in model photosynthetic microalgae, called diatoms.... Read more →


Researchers from Boyce Thompson Institute and Texas A&M University have developed algal droplet bioreactors on a chip that can accelerate the search for optimized algal strains for the production of biofuels. The new high-throughput droplet microfluidics-based screening platform can analyze growth and lipid content in populations derived from single cells... Read more →


DOE selects 4 more algae technology projects for up to $8.8M in funding; > $16M total

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four additional projects from the Productivity Enhanced Algae and ToolKits funding opportunity (earlier post) to receive up to $8.8 million. These projects are intended to deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms in order to reduce the... Read more →


Michigan State University researchers are experimenting with harvesting seed oil to make biofuels. In a recent study published in the journal The Plant Cell, the researchers show that the chloroplast, where plant photosynthesis occurs, also participates in new ways to provide seed oil precursors. Seed oil is made out of... Read more →


LanzaTech collaborating with Swayana to convert waste gases from ferroalloy production to ethanol

South African engineering company Swayana has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LanzaTech to collaborate on developing projects for the production of ethanol and higher value products from waste gases in the ferroalloy and titania smelting sectors. LanzaTech’s first commercial facility will be online at the end of 2017... Read more →


ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics double lipid production in algae species without inhibiting growth

ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics Inc. reported a breakthrough in their joint research (earlier post) into advanced biofuels involving the modification of an algae strain that more than doubled its oil content without significantly inhibiting the strain’s growth. Using advanced cell engineering technologies at Synthetic Genomics, the ExxonMobil-Synthetic Genomics research team... Read more →


Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with colleagues from Los Alamos, Sandia and NREL, are working to lower the cost of producing biofuels from algae. The project, called the Development of Integrated Screening, Cultivar Optimization, and Validation Research (DISCOVR), is funded by the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and has created... Read more →


U of Illinois researchers develop new capabilities for genome-wide engineering of yeast

In a new open-access paper in Nature Communications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers describe how their successful integration of several cutting-edge technologies—creation of standardized genetic components, implementation of customizable genome editing tools, and large-scale automation of molecular biology laboratory tasks—will enhance the ability to work with yeast. The results... Read more →


Researchers uncover mechanism behind oil synthesis in algae

Researchers led by a team from Kobe University in Japan have revealed the mechanism behind oil synthesis within microalgae cells. Many species of algae are capable of producing large amounts of oil (lipids), but this is the first time that researchers have captured the metabolic changes occurring on a molecular... Read more →


US-based biotech startup Amfora and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the federal government agency for scientific research in Australia) signed an agreement to advance development and commercialization of technology to produce oil in the leaves and stems of plants as well as the seeds. Innovation Leader with CSIRO... Read more →


Scientists engineer sugarcane to produce lipids for biodiesel, more sugar for ethanol; ARPA-E project PETROSS

A multi-institutional team led by the University of Illinois has genetically engineered sugarcane to produce lipids in its leaves and stems for biodiesel production (lipid-cane). Surprisingly, the modified sugarcane plants also produced more sugar, which could be used for ethanol production. The dual-purpose bioenergy crops are predicted to be more... Read more →


Researchers at Chalmers University and their colleagues have engineered synthetic fatty acid synthases (FASs) that enable yeast to produce short/medium-chain fatty acids and methyl ketones for use in fuels and chemicals. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. FASs normally synthesize long chain fatty... Read more →


Sumitomo using Amyris/Kuraray liquid farnesene rubber in Dunlop tires

Amyris, Inc. announced that Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. has adopted Amyris’ liquid farnesene rubber (LFR) as a performance-enhancing additive for use in the production of its latest Dunlop-branded Winter Maxx 02 tires. LFR is a liquid rubber developed by Kuraray Co. using Amyris’s biologically derived Biofene-branded β-farnesene. (Earlier post.) The... Read more →


Researchers find shade from stand density can cost farmers about 10% of potential crop yield

A team from the University of Illinois has found that compared to top leaves, the shaded lower level leaves of C4 crops planted in dense stands such as corn and Miscanthus underperform, costing farmers about 10% of potential yield. These findings, published in an open-access paper in the Journal of... Read more →


DuPont Industrial Biosciences awarded grant for high-efficiency biogas enzyme production

DuPont Industrial Biosciences has been awarded a grant from the European Commission to demonstrate high-efficiency enzyme production to increase biogas yields as part of the DEMETER project, funded from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program. Enzyme technology has been proven... Read more →


MIT team engineers yeast to boost lipid production for biofuels

MIT engineers have genetically engineered strains of the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to boost the production of lipids by about 25% compared to previously engineered yeast strains. Their approach could enable commercialization of microbial carbohydrate-based lipid production, supporting the renewable production of high-energy fuels such as diesel. A paper on... Read more →


UC Irvine team discovers nitrogenase Fe protein can reduce CO2 to CO; implications for biofuel production

A team at the University of California, Irvine has discovered that the iron protein (the reductase component) of the natural enzyme nitrogenase can, independent of its natural catalytic partner, convert CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO)—a syngas used to produce useful biofuels and other chemical products. The team, led by Professor... Read more →


UW-Madison and GLBRC team engineers S. cerevisiae to ferment xylose, nearly doubling efficiency of converting biomass sugars to biofuel

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin­-Madison and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) have used directed evolution to nearly double the efficiency with which the commonly used industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae converts plant sugars to biofuel. The resulting improved yeast could boost the economics of making ethanol, specialty biofuels... Read more →


A team from White Dog Labs, a startup commercializing a mixotrophy-based fermentation process, and the University of Delaware have shown that anaerobic, non-photosynthetic mixotrophy—the concurrent utilization of organic (for example, sugars) and inorganic (CO2) substrates in a single organism—can overcome the loss of carbon to CO2 during fermentation to increase... Read more →


Toyota develops new DNA analysis technology to accelerate plant improvement; boosting biofuel crop yield

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has developed a DNA analysis technology it calls Genotyping by Random Amplicon Sequencing (GRAS). This technology is capable of significantly improving the efficiency of identifying and selecting useful genetic information for agricultural plant improvement. This newly developed technology could thus lead to substantial time and cost... Read more →


Using an engineered strain of the phototropic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a biocatalyst, a team from the University of Washington, Utah State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have reduced carbon dioxide to methane in one enzymatic step. The work demonstrates the feasibility of using microbes to generate... Read more →


U Florida team using fungi to extract cobalt and lithium from waste batteries

A team of researchers University of South Florida is using naturally occurring fungi to drive an environmentally friendly recycling process to extract cobalt and lithium from tons of waste batteries. The researchers presented their work at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia.... Read more →


New genome sequences target next generation of yeasts with improved biotech uses

Metabolically, genetically and biochemically, yeasts (unicellular fungi) are highly diverse; more than 1,500 yeast species have been identified. Characteristics such as thick cell walls and tolerance of pressure changes that could rupture other cells mean yeasts are easily scaled up for industrial processes. In addition, they are easy to grow... Read more →


Researchers at MIT and startup Novogy have engineered bacteria and yeast (Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Yarrowia lipolytica) used as producer microbes in biofuel production to use rare compounds as sources of nutrients. The technique, described in a paper in the journal Science, provides the producer microbes with competitive advantage... Read more →


New hybrid sweetgum trees could boost paper, bioenergy production

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) have crossed American sweetgums with their Chinese cousins, creating hybrid sweetgum trees that have a better growth rate and denser wood than natives, and can produce fiber year-round. The hybrid sweetgum trees have enormous potential for the production of bioenergy and paper, said... Read more →