Monday, 08 July 2013 07:46

Tree fungus offers biofuel potential

tree fungus FBRThe hunt for the most efficient and, ideally, most environmentally friendly biofuels continues. One possible source for triggering 'power cells' is a common tree fungus.

There are many different ways to produce biofuels and the search for the optimal way is seen as a ‘golden ticket’ in much chemical research. Many process rely upon using biofuel cells. Here, with the application of an enzyme, polysaccharides (sugar polymers) that make up the bulk of wood and paper have to be broken down into simple sugars. These are then fermented to produce liquid biofuels.

The ideal biofuel cells will produce electricity that is environmentally friendly and conserves resources, for instance from organic waste material. One way to do this is to source a catalyst that grows in the enviornmnet and for this a tree fungus has been sourced.

The fungus selected is Trametes versicolor (often called the "turkey tail"). It is commonly found in temperate climates.

When utilized in a biofuel cell, the fungus releases an enzyme called laccase into a solution surrounding the cathode (the positive pole of the cell) where it enables the electrochemical conversion of oxygen.

Additional Info

The research was undertaken at the Micro Energy Harvesting at the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) of the University of Freiburg. The findings have been published in the journal ChemSusChem.

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