by Anne Seccombe
A new biofuel production process created by Michigan State University researchers produces 20 times more energy than existing methods.
The results, published in the current issue of Environmental Science and Technology, showcase a novel way to use microbes to produce biofuel and hydrogen, all while consuming agricultural wastes.
Dr Gemma Reguera, an Assistant Professor at MSU with PhDs in both biology and microbiology and a post-doctoral Fellowship at Harvard, runs a laboratory which studies the adaptive responses of microbes to their natural environment and exploits this knowledge to find novel biotechnological applications for microbial processes. Her team has developed bioelectrochemical systems known as microbial electrolysis cells, or MECs, using bacteria to breakdown and ferment agricultural waste into ethanol. Reguera’s platform is unique because it employs a second bacterium, which, when added to the mix, removes all the waste fermentation byproducts or nonethanol materials while generating electricity.