Mycodiesel: Diesel from a Tree Fungus

treefungus460The Guardian reports on a Patagonian tree fungus that bears, in its natural state, a remarkable chemical similarity to diesel.

The fungus, called Gliocladium roseum and discovered growing inside the ulmo tree (Eucryphia cordifolia) in northern Patagonia, produces a range of long-chain hydrocarbon molecules that are virtually identical to the fuel-grade compounds in existing fossil fuels.

This fuel compares favorably to biodiesel produced by algae and other bio-engineered methods that are currently under development.

Many simple organisms, such as algae, are already known to make chemicals that are similar to the long-chain hydrocarbons present in transport fuel but, according to Strobel, none produce the explosive hydrocarbons with the high energy density of those in mycodiesel. Strobel said that the chemical mixture produced by his fungus could be used in a modern diesel engine without any modification.

Another advantage of the G. roseum fungus is its ability to eat up cellulose. This is a compound that, along with lignin, makes up the cell walls in plants and is indigestible by most animals. As such, it makes up much of the organic waste currently discarded, such as stalks and sawdust.

In tangentially related news on the alternative energy front, Shawn-Yu Lin of the Rensselaer Institute has developed a coating for solar panels that absorbs 96.2% of sunlight, from all angles (so no need to move panels to improve absorbtion), about half again more than the 66% absorbed by the current generation of solar panels.

More at Treehugger.

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