Patagonia fungus that produces 'diesel' fuels

November 04 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 4 Hot

A research group led by Montana State University Professor Gary Strobel has found a fungus (Gliocladium roseum) inside a Patagonia rainforest that produces hydrocarbon chains similar to diesel fuel or “myco-diesel”.

Why is this important?
Our world is powered by capturing the energy released from carbon-hydrogen chains from wood, coal, oil and natural gas. This chemical energy was formed by ancient biological processes via plants, algae and bacteria. But what if fungi could do the same thing?

If we expect to move beyond an extraction economy that taps ancient bio energy via coal and petroleum, we need to find substitute sources of energy producing systems. Rather than look at energy conversion via plants (e.g. corn), researchers are looking at more ancient forms of life to find the most efficient metabolic systems involved in energy conversion.

We have featured stories on the push towards cellulosic ethanol and algae biofuel startups, and now we can add fungus to that list of potential bio energy substitutes to traditional hydrocarbons.

When can I put myco-diesel in my vehicle?
There is still a very long way to go before we can develop energy roadmaps and forecasts for fungi derived fuels. For now, smart money is on cellulosic and algae derived biofuels. This is an important discovery, but we have no applied evidence that it could easily scale to produce large amounts of usable forms of liquid fuels at a low cost. But this is an important first step and a significant discovery around the fundamentals of bioenergy!

MSU Press Release

Photo courtesy of Gary Strobel

Colorized environmental scanning electron microscope photo of Gliocladium roseum, an endophtic fungus that produces myco-diesel hydrocarbons.

Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. Kinda reminds me of Andromeda Strain in that we might end up killing off an organism that will eventually save our lives. Imagine if the Dodo had a cure for Cancer somewhere in it.

    Posted by: martymcfly   November 05, 2008
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  2. I agree, how many extinct species could have possibly saved us from the brink of death? Then again, the T-Rex could have been the fountain of youth. Let’s not cry over spilt milk.

    Posted by: John Heylin   November 05, 2008
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  3. Yes, the key is finding out what nature has to offer… at the molecular and genetic level…

    The best energy systems in the world are based on biological systems…

    Good to see fungus in the game!

    Posted by: Garry Golden   November 07, 2008
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