Biofuels research

We are isolating cellulolytic thermophiles for the production of bioethanol.

Bioethanol production process diagram

The development of biologically-derived and environmentally sustainable fuels, such as bioethanol or biohydrogen, is recognised as an important means for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

At present, bioethanol derived from the microbial conversion of cellulose and hemicellulose, the world’s most abundant biological materials, has environmental but as-of-yet only moderate economic viability.

The use of thermophilic microorganisms, and/or enzymatic preparations derived from thermophiles are strategies to increase the rate of cellulose degradation, and therefore production efficiency.

Our novel microbial isolates represent an important step in understanding and improving bioethanol production. Our OP10 isolates and a Chloroflexi-like species, effectively breakdown cellulose and hemicellulose compounds to form sugars for fermentation to ethanol.

Biofuels research is being undertaken under the following three objectives*:

  1. Commercial characteristation: laboratory trials to determine whether our cellulose-degrading bacteria and/or their enzymes are suitable for commercial bioethanol production.
  2. Genomic sequencing: genomic analyses to determine the genetic basis of the cellulolytic activity, and whether we can we use this data to generate commercially preferred cellulolytic enzymes.
  3. Targeted biodiscovery: to find and develop new bacterial species for use in improving the biofuel production process. This includes novel cellulolytic and lignin degrading bacterial species, as well as species capable of converting cellulose breakdown products to ethanol or hydrogen.

Our collaborators: