The microbe that rotted Grandpa’s uniform and wreaked havoc on his equipment while fighting in the Pacific theater of World War II might be the same fungus that could help fill up your gas tank.
This story from Biofuels Media Ltd. says that research by commercial and government scientists working with the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory has unlocked genes in Trichoderma reesei that could help produce biofuels:
“The information generated from the genome of T. reesei provides us with a roadmap for accelerating research to optimize fungal strains for reducing the current prohibitively high cost of converting lignocellulose to fermentable sugars,” said Eddy Rubin, DOE JGI Director and one of the paper’s senior authors. “Improved industrial enzyme ‘cocktails’ from T. reseei and other fungi will enable more economical conversion of biomass from such feedstocks as the perennial grasses Miscanthus and switchgrass, wood from fast-growing trees like poplar, agricultural crop residues, and municipal waste, into next-generation biofuels. Through these incremental advances, we hope to eventually supplant the gasoline-dependent transportation sector of our economy with a more carbon-neutral strategy.”
One of the commercial collaborators on the project calls this “a major step towards using renewable feedstocks for the production of fuels and chemicals.”