[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
Lund researchers develop optimized two-phase enzymatic process for production of biodiesel
April 06, 2015
Researchers at Lund University (Sweden) have developed an optimized two-phase enzymatic (lipase) system for the conversion of plant oils to biodiesel. Applied to the solvent-free ethanolysis of rapeseed oil, the system delivered a yield of 96% under mild conditions. Under the mild conditions used, chemical catalysts were inefficient. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
The current predominant method for the transesterification of triglycerides (plant and animal oils and fats) to biodiesel (a mixture of esters) uses chemical catalysts (sodium or potassium hydroxides or alkoxides). Despite its predominance, there are several drawbacks with this approach, including the need to remove inorganic salt in the downstream process; the high temperature required; and undesirable side reactions. Further, these systems are inefficient when a high free fatty acid (FFA) content is present in the starting material, thus restricting the use of conventional chemical pathways to a highly pure feedstock. An alternative approach is the use of immobilized lipase-catalyzed transesterification in the presence of an organic solvent.
DeltaWing to develop GT race car concept; step toward street-legal DeltaWing sports car
March 23, 2015
DeltaWing Technology Group is beginning development of a DeltaWing GT race car concept. The racer will be designed to demonstrate that with far less horsepower than many of today’s best sports cars, a two-seat performance car based on the DeltaWing architecture would deliver the same performance, yet with previously unattained fuel economy and efficiency. Expected to appear in 2015, this new DeltaWing Racing Cars project is a major step toward a street-legal two-seat DeltaWing sports car, the company said.
In Mat 2014, DeltaWing released a rendering of an application of its DeltaWing aerodynamic and lightweight design architecture as a street-legal, four-passenger car. DeltaWing Technologies said at the time that it was seeking OEM partners with the ultimate goal of licensing the DeltaWing vehicle architecture that is 35% lighter, requires 35% less horsepower, and consumes 35% less fuel. (Earlier post.)
Researchers ID structure of key intermediate in enzyme converting methane to methanol; potential for synthetic fuels
January 26, 2015
A team from the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University has identified the structure of the key intermediate “Q” in the enzyme methane monooxygenase (MMO). MMO catalyzes the O2-dependent conversion of methane to methanol in methanotrophic bacteria, thereby preventing the emission into the atmosphere of approximately one billion tons of this potent greenhouse gas annually.
Q is one of the most powerful oxidizing intermediates occurring in nature. Exploiting this extreme oxidizing potential is of great interest for bioremediation and the development of synthetic approaches to methane-based alternative fuels and chemical industry feedstocks, the authors noted in their paper, published in the journal Nature. The insight gained into the formation and reactivity of Q from the structure reported is an important step towards harnessing this potential, the authors suggested.
Novozymes launches commercial enzyme technology to convert waste oils into biodiesel
December 02, 2014
Novozymes has launched Eversa Transform, the first commercially available enzymatic solution (a liquid lipase) to convert both glycerides and free fatty acids (FFA) into biodiesel. Biodiesel producers can thereby use cooking oil or other lower grade oils as biodiesel feedstock, reducing their raw material costs. The resulting enzymatic biodiesel is sold to the same trade specification as biodiesel created through traditional chemical processing.
Growing demand for vegetable oil in the food industry has resulted in increased prices, causing biodiesel producers to search for alternative—and more sustainable—feedstocks. Most of the oils currently used in biodiesel production are sourced from soybeans, palm or rapeseed, and typically contain less than 0.5% free fatty acids (FFA). Existing biodiesel process designs have difficulty handling oils containing more than 0.5% FFA—i.e., waste oils with high FFAs have not been a viable feedstock option.
Researchers enhance yeast thermotolerance and ethanol tolerance; potential for significant impact on industrial biofuel production
October 03, 2014
The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae plays a central role in global biofuel production; currently, about 100 billion liters of ethanol are produced annually worldwide by fermentation of mainly sugarcane saccharose and corn starch by the yeast. There are also efforts underway to use the yeast with cellulosic biomass.
Boosting the yield and lowering the cost of fermentative production of biofuel would not only result in a significant immediate financial impact to commercial ethanol operations, but also support cost reductions that would be helpful to advance other advanced biofuels using the same or a similar pathway. However, boosting production has been gated by two key conditions: the ability of the yeast to tolerate higher temperatures, and the ability of the yeast to survive high concentrations of ethanol. Now, two new separate studies report progress on each of those fronts; the findings could have a significant impact on industrial biofuel production. Both papers are published in the current issue of the journal Science.