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Micro-biotechnology – Nanotechnology & Energy Meet

October 14th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Fuel-Research

You are at: Oilgae Blog (Oilgae – Oil & Biodiesel from Algae Home Page)

See also: Oilgae Blog Article Directory for a complete listing of all Oilgae blog posts – covering news, research and updates on biodiesel from algae & other plant feedstock, ethanol, and other renewable energy such as wind energy, hydrogen, hydro-energy, tidal/wave energy, geothermal, solar energy & nuclear energy

Micro-biorefineries: nanotechnology and bioenergy meet

The article whose excerpt is provided below was brought to my note by this Biopact Blog article


1. Two different tendencies are emerging in the bioenergy sector.

2. On the one hand, green fuels like ethanol, biodiesel, biogas or solid biomass are seen as world ‘commodities’ that can be traded on a global market, and shipped over oceans across the planet in huge vessels, or pumped through biofuel pipelines a thousand kilometres

3. But there is another vision, one in which local communities become owners of their own energy infrastructure, resources and politics. It is within this paradigm that some are working towards the development of ‘micro-biorefineries’ that use locally produced biomass feedstocks and turn them into fuels, electricity, heat, and green specialty chemicals at a local scale. The project combines nanotechnology with biotechnology to get there

4. The idea is to integrate different bioconversion processes, and to scale them down radically (‘Process Intensification and Miniaturisation’). Three conversion steps are integrated, each using the residues of the precedent step: (a) a first conversion and pretreatment of the base biomass through bacterial breakdown into a ‘bio-sludge’ with a high energy density, (b) conversion of the biomass residues that result from this process into ethanol through fermentation, (c) gasification of the residues that remain from this fermentation process into a synthesis gas. Production of green specialty chemicals from the syngas and its residues is envisaged.

5. Key to the integration of the steps is the control of the behavior of bacteria. In order to control bacteria in a way that does not rely on manipulating their genetic properties, porous nano-structures are being designed on a molecular scale. These nanostructures work by applying different levels of ‘physiological stress’ on the bacteria, which makes the bacteria change their behavior accordingly.

6. One type of bacterium lets several kinds of biomass grow much quicker and allows it to grow on marginal and even dry land. This way, the quantity of biomass that will be used in the local biorefinery can be managed and predicted much better

Full paper here

Organisations mentioned: University of Newcastle’s spin-off Intensified Technologies Inc (ITI)

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