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Washington Researchers Make Jet Fuel from a Common Fungus

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The concept of biofuel is becoming more and more popular along with the growing awareness of the global energy issues. Thus, many companies and research institutes all over the world are working on the development of sustainable fuel from all kinds of organic components, from vegetable oil to algae.

According to a press release from Washington State University (WSU), a group of researchers led by Dr. Birgitte Ahring, Director of the University’s Bioproduct Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, managed to produce hydrocarbons, one of the basic fuel components, from a common fungus which can be found in rotting organic materials, such as decaying leaves, fruit and soil. The initial results of the research were published in the journal Fungal Biology and more work is to be published within the next weeks and months.

In fact, fungi have long interested researchers in the field of biofuels because of their ability to produce hydrocarbons. However, it is not easy to make them produce hydrocarbons in large quantities, which is necessary for the large-scale production of biofuels.

After a number of tests with the fungus called Aspergillus carbonarius and various food sources, the researchers found that the fungus produced the highest amounts of hydrocarbon when consuming oatmeal. It also appeared to produce significant volumes of hydrocarbon from wheat straw and non-edible leftovers from corn. Thus, apart from providing a source of a vital fuel component, this method could also contribute to the sustainable recycling of agricultural waste.

Another advantage of this method is that it is completely natural and does not involve any complex chemical processes. For this reason, it has the potential to create sustainable fuel at low costs and could indeed revolutionize the market! Dr. Ahring and her team think that a large-scale production of fungi biofuel could start in about five years from now.

It’s very promising. I think that the fungus-based fuels are something that is going to happen. It’s a tremendous opportunity,’’ she said.

Of course, when the fungi biofuel enters the market, it is more likely to be used as an additive mixed with conventional aviation fuel. However, it could completely replace conventional fuel within the next 10 to 20 years.

The world needs more of similar research initiatives to pave the way for the sustainable development and green technologies, which not only could reduce the energy costs but also help save our planet.

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