Scientists Seek New Ways to Produce Biofuel

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In this NPR podcast by Science Friday's Ira Flatow, researchers describe several new ideas in the quest to efficiently produce fuel from foodstuffs.

One one example, Mariam Sticklen (Michigan State University) describes a technique to use a gene from a microbe that lives in a cow's stomach to convert fiber into fermentable sugar.  Her approach is to insert the gene into a corn plant, only producing the enzyme in the leaves and corn stalk – not in the pollen, root, or ear of corn itself.  This way, humans and animals can eat the corn, while the stalk and leaves (containing the enzyme) are ready to be used for energy production.

Original Article

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It is my understanding that the problem with algee bioreactors is getting even distribution of light throughout the growing medium, while growing them in an open environment can lead to contamination by weeds and other parasitic organisms. The Japanese have cultivated spirulina (algee) successfully for many decades as a food supplement, so the technology does exist and should be easily transferable to fuel-producing algae.

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