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The Biofuel comes from the Oceans

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The conversion of Marco algae to ethanol through fermentation. The project considers the composition and fermentability of selected macroalgae (seaweeds) for their use as a future source of biomass for bioethanol production.  Use of macroalgae as a biomass source removes many of the current issues (Fuel Vs food) surrounding plants produced for biofuel production. This project is a collaboration between universities and research institutes throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Biomass Conversion

and Biorefining; Increasing awareness regarding the environmental impact of producing chemicals, materials, transport fuels and energy from fossil fuels such as  natural gas, coal and oil is driving a reappraisal of how best to produce these commodities. Current worldwide consumption and demand for fossil fuels, particularly oil, is placing a massive strain on a finite resource, particularly when taken in the context of India and China’s rapidly expanding economies.Fossil fuels are made of organic matter i.e. dead plants and animals which, over millions of years have been transformed into oil by high temperature and pressure.  So if used, such a resource will take millions of years to re-accumulate with the accompanying production of greenhouse gases such as CO2 which pollute the atmosphere.  Given the finite nature of fossil fuels and their on-going price volatility, an alternative is to make transport fuel or chemicals from plant biomass directly using a process called BIOREFINING.Biorefining takes organic material e.g. plants and uses a series of mechanical, biological and chemical processes to

convert the biomass into a broad range of commercially important products including pharmaceuticals, transport fuels, energy sources and chemicals. The biorefinery concept is analogous to today’s petroleum refineries, which yield fuels and products from crude oil; however it differs by using plant biomass as a starting material which is RENEWABLE and ultimately more environmentally conscious.The Post-harvest and Fermentation Group is involved in studying the processing and microbial conversion of a range of biorenewable materials to fine and bulk chemicals, including biofuels, to  supplement/replace fossil-carbon feedstocks.  As part of these studies we are investigating the potential of our extensive germplasm collections to provide improved feedstocks for fermentations and determining how changes in chemical composition resulting from breeding programmes affect fermentability. Studies are also underway to characterise post-harvest changes that occur in plant feedstocks and their effect on biotransformation, as well as developing technologies to minimise losses and maximise outputs. Other studies include looking at both a range of recombinant enzymes and genetic manipulation of microorganisms, to increase the availability and utilisation of plant substrates during fermentation. Dr Jessica Adams, Microbiologist/Fermentation Scientist. News from: Aberystwyth University

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