Using 'Shrooms to Grow Biodiesel
Fungi have really become the go-to organisms in biotechnology circles: we've seen them used as a form of insulation and have seen several potential applications for biofuel production. Notch yet another one to the latter category: a team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have discovered a better way to make biodiesel using a fungus-derived enzyme.
To make biodiesel, methanol is typically mixed with a blend of lye and vegetable oil and heated for several hours. The main downside to this process is the length of the heating process — which generates a lot of wasted energy. Fortunately, the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae possesses large amounts of a key enzyme — lipase — which can link the methanol to the oils without the need for extra heating. The scientists just need to pass oil and methanol through a bed of pellet-sized amounts of the fungi to produce the biodiesel. Who says biofuel production can't be both simple and green?