Fungus in the Patagonian rainforest might be biofuel source

I received this announcement from a partner in the US, regarding our Termite project.

Patagonia is a remote area for almost everyone, although I hapen to live only 1600 km from Bariloche. It could be possible to travel by car to collect samples. These days another person from Bulgaria contacted me about getting Patagonic fungi, although he intends to sell them as food.

The scientific news is:

U.S. scientists say a fungus in the Patagonian rainforest might be a new source of biofuels since it produces a number of diesel compounds from cellulose.

“This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances,” said Montana State University Professor Gary Strobel, making it a better source of biofuels than anything used now.

The fungus, Gliocladium roseum, produces various molecules made of hydrogen and carbon that are found in diesel, the researchers said. Because of that, the fuel it produces is called “myco-diesel.”

“Gliocladium roseum lives inside the Ulmo tree in the Patagonian rainforest,” Strobel said. “We were trying to discover totally novel fungi in this tree by exposing its tissues to the volatile antibiotics of the fungus Muscodor albus. Quite unexpectedly, G. roseum grew in the presence of these gases when almost all other fungi were killed.

“It was also making volatile antibiotics. Then when we examined the gas composition of G. roseum, we were totally surprised to learn it was making a plethora of hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon derivatives,” Strobel said.”

Strobel said the discovery brings into question scientists’ knowledge of the way fossil fuels are made.

To make it clear, let me say that bacteria and fungi are the only living entities that can feed on cellulose. Termites and cows use bacteria in their digestive systems to process the cellulose. Once the cellulose was decomposed in its main component, glucose, it can be used either as energy supply for animals, or that glucose can be fermented into alcohols, for fuel.

A good termite project will combine enthomologists and microbiologists for better results. (I happen to be Microbiologist).

I will be happy to answer any inquiries at the contact option in the right menu.