According to LiveScience, scientists have discovered a fungus that can produce biofuel more efficiently than any existing bio-fuel production method. The way bio-fuel is made now, certain enzymes are needed to convert the cellulose into sugar, at which point the microbes can break down and ferment that sugar into ethanol.
By using this fungus, called Gliocladium roseum, commercially, the cellulose digesting step can be skipped. Instead of providing enzymes from outside the mix, G. roseum digests cellulose on it’s own and then moves on to ferment the sugar as well.
G. roseum is so good at turning plant matter into fuel that some scientists are questioning the whole theory of how crude oil was made by nature in the first place.
By using G. roseum, bio-diesel could become an actual viable alternative fuel.
“This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances,” said researcher Gary Strobel from Montana State University. “The fungus can even make these diesel compounds from cellulose, which would make it a better source of biofuel than anything we use at the moment.”
The scientists are now working to harness its fuel-making potential, according to a paper published in the November issue of the journal Microbiology.
The discovery also calls into question the assumptions about how fossil fuels are made. “The accepted theory is that crude oil, which is used to make diesel, is formed from the remains of dead plants and animals that have been exposed to heat and pressure for millions of years,” Strobel said. “If fungi like this are producing myco-diesel all over the rainforest, they may have contributed to the formation of fossil fuels.”