Greener, cheaper biofuel production

Assoc Prof He (far right) with some members of her team

A bacterium isolated from mushroom crop residue could be a new key for biofuel production, an NUS Engineering team revealed in a study. Led by NUS Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor He Jianzhong, the researchers first discovered and cultured the naturally occurring bacterium strain Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum TG57 in 2015. When added to cellulose — a plant-based material — the bacterium can directly convert cellulose into biobutanol which can be a replacement for petrol.

Traditional biofuels are usually produced from food crops but the approach is costly and competes with food production for environmental resources.

Unprocessed cellulosic material such as plant leaves, in contrast, are in great abundance, environmentally friendly and economically sustainable. Biofuels produced from such material is expected to meet growing energy demands without increasing greenhouse gas emissions that could result from fossil fuel burning. This novel method by the NUS team could potentially lead to more cost effective and sustainable biofuel production.

The team is planning to optimise the performance of the TG57 strain to increase the production of biobutanol.

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