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New microbe turns sugary seaweed into fuel
Chemistry World ^ | 19 January 2012 | Jon Evans

Posted on 01/25/2012 7:49:44 PM PST by neverdem

It may be slimy, slippery and rather unpleasant, but seaweed actually has a surprisingly wide range of uses, being a common source of food, chemicals, medicines and cosmetics. It may soon also be a source of biofuel, thanks to an engineered microbe able to transform seaweed directly into ethanol. 

Seaweed has a number of important advantages over other biofuel feedstocks. Unlike maize and sugarcane, it isn't grown on fields that otherwise would be producing food and unlike wood and energy crops, such as switchgrass, it doesn't contain any lignin, which makes the sugar molecules in it much easier to release.  

As a consequence, seaweed is garnering an increasing amount of interest as a potential biofuel feedstock, especially in countries with extensive coastlines. Last year, Norway opened its new Centre for Seaweed and Kelp Technology, which will focus on developing ways to generate energy from seaweed. 

Seaweed farm

Farming seaweed could be a cheap way to produce biofuel

© Bio Architecture Lab

Unfortunately, although it's easy to release sugar molecules from seaweed, it's not at all easy for microbes such as yeast to ferment those sugar molecules into ethanol. Brown macroalgae, a seaweed found all over the world, especially in colder seas, mainly contains the sugars glucan, mannitol and alginate. Yeast can ferment glucan pretty well, but struggles with mannitol and has no luck at all with alginate. 

So, scientists at the US advanced biofuel company Bio Architecture Lab set about genetically engineering a microbe that could ferment alginate, which meant endowing it with a daunting list of abilities. As well as being able to produce a class of enzymes known as alginate lysases, which break down alginate into smaller sugar molecules, the engineered microbe also needed to secrete those enzymes into the external environment, where they can interact with the seaweed. It then needs to be able to transport the sugar molecules into its body and ferment them into ethanol. 

Fortunately, the scientists found many of the genes needed to perform these feats in a single marine bacteria called Vibrio splendidus, although transferring them over into the laboratory workhorse Escherichia coli proved no easy matter. 'It required multi-gene components comprising over 20 genes,' Yasuo Yoshikuni, lead scientist and founder of Bio Architecture Lab tells Chemistry World. To complete the organism they added a fermentation pathway and deleted some E coli genes that might interfere with the whole process. 

Testing this engineered E coli strain on a species of brown algae, Saccharina japonica, the scientists found that it was indeed able to ferment alginate into ethanol. Furthermore, this bacterium also proved better at fermenting mannitol than conventional yeast. As a result, it was able to synthesise ethanol from seaweed at a rate of 0.64g/litre/hour, representing over 80% of the maximum possible yield. 

Yoshikuni and his colleagues are now using this engineered E coli as the basis of a commercial production process. The company is currently constructing a pilot plant in Chile, where they already operate four seaweed farms, and expects it to become operational in July. 

 

References

Science, 2012, 335, 308-313 (DOI: 10.1126/science.1214547)

Also of interest

seaweed

Seaweed extract gives lithium batteries a boost

08 September 2011

Polysaccharides from brown algae offer a cheap way to stabilise silicon anodes and improve battery capacity


Callophycus serratus

Seaweed recruited in fight against malaria

24 February 2011

Natural products from Fijian red seaweed have shown remarkable anti-malarial properties


Kelp forest

Waste seaweed mops up heavy metals

20 January 2006

Waste seaweed from the alginate industry could decontaminate water from disused mines.



TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events; Technical
KEYWORDS: bioethanol; biofuel; biotechnology; ethanol
An Engineered Microbial Platform for Direct Biofuel Production from Brown Macroalgae

If they're making money without any subsidies, go for it.

1 posted on 01/25/2012 7:49:52 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

What a waste of good sushi!....


2 posted on 01/25/2012 7:51:22 PM PST by Red Badger (If you are unemployed long enough, you are no longer unemployed.)
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To: Red Badger

Paging George Nori...


3 posted on 01/25/2012 7:53:13 PM PST by null and void (Day 1100 of America's ObamaVacation from reality [Heroes aren't made, Frank, they're cornered...])
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To: neverdem

Does this mean that all of our problems are solved?


4 posted on 01/25/2012 7:54:00 PM PST by lurk
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To: null and void

E. Coli genes?........they better be careful.....


5 posted on 01/25/2012 7:56:56 PM PST by Red Badger (If you are unemployed long enough, you are no longer unemployed.)
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To: lurk
Does this mean that all of our problems are solved?

Only if we eat enough uni to preserve the kelp forests...

6 posted on 01/25/2012 8:02:36 PM PST by null and void (Day 1100 of America's ObamaVacation from reality [Heroes aren't made, Frank, they're cornered...])
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To: neverdem

This could have promise. The key to renewable fuels is to produce the feedstock cheaply, with low overhead and input costs, and on some resource that’s not already being used to produce something more valuable.


7 posted on 01/25/2012 8:03:33 PM PST by bigbob
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To: neverdem
We will soon have seaweed

BEER!

YUK!


8 posted on 01/25/2012 8:08:44 PM PST by Red_Devil 232 (VietVet - USMC All Ready On The Right? All Ready On The Left? All Ready On The Firing Line!)
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*


9 posted on 01/25/2012 8:22:28 PM PST by Razzz42
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To: neverdem

slimy, slippery and unpleasant smelling - Oh, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Cynthia McKinney, and Jim Clyburn.

“STAY OUT OF THE WATER”!


10 posted on 01/25/2012 8:42:06 PM PST by MadMax, the Grinning Reaper
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To: neverdem

Environmentalists will find a way to have this outlawed.


11 posted on 01/25/2012 8:43:15 PM PST by taxesareforever (Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich no jail time. Yeah!!!!!)
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To: El Gato; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; Dianna; ...
Enzymes Show Early Heart Damage in Diabetes

Stem Cell Treatment for Eye Diseases Shows Promise

Surprising Cells Stymie Sepsis

Brown Fat, Triggered by Cold or Exercise, May Yield a Key to Weight Control

FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.

12 posted on 01/25/2012 8:46:51 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: neverdem

But can Willy smoke it?


13 posted on 01/25/2012 8:50:06 PM PST by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: neverdem

I have learned to be very slow about any technology that claims to be “green”, “renewable”, “bio-fuel”, etc... however, this sounds to be a quite promising approach. I hope it works out, and that ethanol can be sold at a cost per unit energy less than gasoline.


14 posted on 01/25/2012 9:54:08 PM PST by AFPhys ((Praying for our troops, our citizens, that the Bible and Freedom become basis of the US law again))
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To: neverdem

That is what I was going to say. If its economical without huge subsidies, then go for it!


15 posted on 01/25/2012 9:58:12 PM PST by vpintheak (Occupy your Brain!)
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To: null and void

wrong seaweed. nori are made from green seaweed.


16 posted on 01/25/2012 10:30:58 PM PST by RitchieAprile
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To: RitchieAprile

I know, but I couldn’t resist the Coast to Coast AM pun.


17 posted on 01/25/2012 10:37:45 PM PST by null and void (Day 1100 of America's ObamaVacation from reality [Heroes aren't made, Frank, they're cornered...])
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To: neverdem

Isn’t common lake algae, the kind so many lakes are overrun with, a good source of biofuel? Seems like there was quite a bit about that several years ago.


18 posted on 01/26/2012 12:18:10 AM PST by Bellflower (The LORD is Holy, separated from all sin, perfect, righteous, high and lifted up.)
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To: neverdem

BAN FRANKENTHOL!

Just say “NO!” to FRANKENTHOL!

Don’t let Monsanto’s GM Frankenpoison pollute our oceans!

Protect the sea kittens!

/sarc


19 posted on 01/26/2012 2:32:29 AM PST by ApplegateRanch ("Public service" does NOT mean servicing the people, like a bull among heifers.)
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To: ApplegateRanch

Send the seaweed to Mooooochelle, she can eat it and loose some weight. Maybe that fat rear would get down to something “normal”......Oh wait, that IS normal for her.


20 posted on 01/26/2012 5:39:20 AM PST by DaveA37
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To: lurk
No it doesn't mean the problems are solved. See, we can't fish to much
because of the Environuts and now instead they'll stop this because it
will deplete the ocean of fish food.

I wonder if using dead people for fuel is ok.

Just thinking ahead.

21 posted on 01/26/2012 5:44:38 AM PST by MaxMax
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To: MaxMax
I wonder if using dead people for fuel is ok.

No, that would interrupt the supply of Soylent Green.

22 posted on 01/26/2012 5:52:52 AM PST by justlurking (The only remedy for a bad guy with a gun is a good WOMAN (Sgt. Kimberly Munley) with a gun)
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To: Bellflower
How about all that exotic milfoil?
23 posted on 01/26/2012 6:08:31 AM PST by Does so ("What elephant?")
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To: bigbob
The key to renewable fuels is to produce the feedstock cheaply, with low overhead and input costs, and on some resource that’s not already being used to produce something more valuable.

In this case the land, water, and sunshine are vast and free for the taking. This opens up 70% of Earth's surface/70% of the Earth's available solar energy which we are not currently using for much. Sun blocking cloud cover is greatly reduced over the open oceans away from land. Even if growing efficiency is very low, all we need is a low cost harvesting technology to make this work. For thousands of years we used whales to do this harvesting but we're going to need something more scalable. We could replace the entire petroleum industry using less than 2 percent of the ocean surface, and it's carbon neutral on a large scale.

24 posted on 01/26/2012 6:55:42 AM PST by Reeses
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To: neverdem
This is pretty much redundant now that the price of natural gas is driven down by the huge increment of supply due to the shale fracking revolution.

OTOH it seems according to the WSJ today that liquid rather than gaseous fuel is dramatically more valuable because of its superior portability for transportation/mobile power.

25 posted on 01/26/2012 10:10:26 AM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion (DRAFT PALIN)
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To: Dysart; AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Berosus; bigheadfred; Bockscar; ColdOne; ...

Thanks neverdem.


26 posted on 01/26/2012 6:22:58 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this FReepathon!)
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To: AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Berosus; bigheadfred; Bockscar; ColdOne; Convert from ECUSA; ...

Thanks neverdem.


27 posted on 01/26/2012 6:29:17 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this FReepathon!)
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To: neverdem
(channeling enviro-Nazis from bygone years) -"It will be years and years before oil seaweed can be converted into enough oil to make any major difference in prices, so why even bother?"

(end sarcasm)

28 posted on 01/26/2012 6:38:08 PM PST by airborne (Paratroopers! Good to the last drop!)
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To: Does so
How about all that exotic milfoil?

Here's something about that from 2008. Wonder how their study has come along?

________________________________________________

Milfoil to be studied as biofuel

October 2008

U.S. Water News Online

SPOKANE, Wash. — Ask boaters, dock owners, swimmers or scientists and you're likely to get the same answer — Eurasian milfoil is a good-for-nothing pest.

Since the mid-1970s, the feathery water plant has spread in the Inland Northwest's rivers and lakes, and hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent battling it each year.

Now a couple from Elk, Wash., has come up with a new idea — what if harvested milfoil could be turned into biofuel?

“I got the idea while I was reading a document about biodiversity,” said Alanna Mitchell, a supervisor with the Pend Oreille Conservation District. “I made a note in the margin, asking how can you come at problems like milfoil and handle them more comprehensively?”

Currently, milfoil is pulled out of lakes and streams using various equipment and simple manpower, or killed off by applying herbicides.

The plant is so nutrient-rich it burns other vegetation when piled on the shoreline.

“It was the harvesting that was the clue,” Mitchell said. “I mean, we already have this stuff. I was wondering if we could use it for something.”

Another consideration was the debate over using corn as a fuel source.

“One wants to go green, but one doesn't want to deplete a food source,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and her husband, Cesar “Sandy” Clavell, who both have backgrounds in environmental sciences, applied for a grant through the Washington state Department of Ecology. The couple received about $8,000 for initial research.

They plan to investigate two methods of extracting oil from the water plants for use in biofuels — distilling and using solvents. What's left of the plant after each process will be composted and tested.

Students at Selkirk High School will be doing most of the research.

“Sandy is just a neat guy that he would think of including us in the first place,” said John Kinney, science and math teacher at Selkirk High School. The school has a certified water quality research lab, which came about because the rural school runs its own wastewater treatment plant and water system.

“We do water testing for many of the small towns around here,” Kinney said, adding that his environmental science class, and possibly some of the chemistry students, will be working on Mitchell and Clavell's research project.

“It's great for the students because this is for real, and it's an example of classic research,” said Kinney. “The kids get to see how it's done, how you explore all the variables and experience how the excitement sometimes wears off. Research can get tedious because you do the same thing over and over again.”

Ron Curren, public works director for Pend Oreille County, said it would be ideal if milfoil could be used for something.

Curren is waiting for a $200,000 milfoil harvester to arrive within the next couple of weeks..........

www.uswaternews.com/archives/arcquality/8milftoxx10.html

29 posted on 01/26/2012 7:00:56 PM PST by Bellflower (The LORD is Holy, separated from all sin, perfect, righteous, high and lifted up.)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion
This is pretty much redundant now that the price of natural gas is driven down by the huge increment of supply due to the shale fracking revolution.

The environazis are causing all sorts of ignorant opposition to fracking.

OTOH it seems according to the WSJ today that liquid rather than gaseous fuel is dramatically more valuable because of its superior portability for transportation/mobile power.

Ethanol has more energy density as a liquid, and it's a chemical commodity. It can be used as a solvent or reagent for making other molecules, e.g. ethanol will react with organic acids to make esters as in polyester.

Cheap energy, the opposite of Obama's stated desire, will help getting out of the Great Recession.

30 posted on 01/26/2012 7:53:55 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: neverdem

What the heck is wrong with the renewable energy industry? Do they hate the environment that much? Coastal water areas are already heavily damaged ecological zones thanks to human activity on land, not to mention over fishing. And now they want to start harvesting the plants? Do they really want to destroy all fish stock that much?


31 posted on 01/27/2012 11:11:59 AM PST by rmlew ("Mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, domes our helmets, the believers our soldiers.")
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