Taming biofuel-loving microbes

March 07, 2018

Most people are cautious around gasoline and diesel for good reason, but some microbes love the stuff -- especially biofuels that contain fatty acid derivatives. So, as the world tries to go "green," it also has to consider the slime that such microbes leave behind, clogging up equipment and killing engines. An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society explores the issue and what's being done about it.

Senior Correspondent Mitch Jacoby explains that these microbes are not much of a concern for the typical motorist. But for airlines and other organizations that store large amounts of fuel, contamination could be a problem. The U.S. Air Force, for example, has a mandate to rely more on biobased fuels in the coming years. Before using biofuels, military personnel made sure that the substances wouldn't interact badly with other materials it would come into contact with. However, they didn't consider the effects of microbiology. And as fleet operators started using blends of biodiesel and conventional fuels, they noticed contamination where none had existed. This caused some experts to look down on the alternative fuels.

But scientists are on the case. One team recently identified several bacteria and fungi wreaking havoc in actively used fuel tanks. The microbes coated metal panels placed in the tanks with orange and red slime, and caused corrosion and pitting. Another group has been analyzing genomes to help understand how microbes metabolize the fuels, and their findings could lead to safer ways of preventing contamination. Much more work is needed to sort through all of the possible factors, but scientists are well prepared to tackle this puzzle.
-end-
The article, "Why efforts to use green fuels sometimes run afoul," is freely available here.

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us on Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Biofuels Articles from Brightsurf:

Making biofuels cheaper by putting plants to work
One strategy to make biofuels more competitive is to make plants do some of the work themselves.

How to make it easier to turn plant waste into biofuels
Researchers have developed a new process that could make it much cheaper to produce biofuels such as ethanol from plant waste and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Barriers and opportunities in renewable biofuels production
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have identified two main challenges for renewable biofuel production from cheap sources.

How biofuels from plant fibers could combat global warming
A study from Colorado State University finds new promise for biofuels produced from switchgrass, a non-edible native grass that grows in many parts of North America.

Calculating the CO2 emissions of biofuels is not enough
A new EU regulation aims to shrink the environmental footprint of biofuels starting in 2021.

Algae cultivation technique could advance biofuels
Washington State University researchers have developed a way to grow algae more efficiently -- in days instead of weeks -- and make the algae more viable for several industries, including biofuels.

Cutting the cost of ethanol, other biofuels and gasoline
Biofuels like the ethanol in US gasoline could get cheaper thanks to experts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Michigan State University.

Cellulosic biofuels can benefit the environment if managed correctly
Could cellulosic biofuels -- or liquid energy derived from grasses and wood -- become a green fuel of the future, providing an environmentally sustainable way of meeting energy needs?

Making oil from algae -- towards more efficient biofuels
The mechanism behind oil synthesis within microalgae cells has been revealed by a Japanese research team.

WSU study finds people willing to pay more for new biofuels
When it comes to second generation biofuels, Washington State University research shows that consumers are willing to pay a premium of approximately 11 percent over conventional fuel.

Read More: Biofuels News and Biofuels Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.