Oil Creation Theory Challenged by Fuel-Making Fungus

By | November 5, 2008

20081104_fungusroseumA newfound fungus living in rainforest trees makes biofuel more efficiently than any other known method, researchers say. In fact, it’s so good at turning plant matter into fuel that researchers say their discovery calls into question the whole theory of how crude oil was made by nature in the first place.  … “The accepted theory is that crude oil, which is used to make diesel, is formed from the remains of dead plants and animals that have been exposed to heat and pressure for millions of years,” Strobel said. “If fungi like this are producing myco-diesel all over the rainforest, they may have contributed to the formation of fossil fuels.” – yahoo

A reddish microbe found on the inside of a tree at a secret location in the rainforests of northern Patagonia could unlock the biofuel of the future, say scientists. Its potential is so startling that the discoverers have coined the term “myco-diesel” – a derivation of the word for fungus – to describe the bouquet of hydrocarbons that it breathes.

“This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances,” said Gary Strobel, a professor of biology at Montana State University.

“The fungus can even make these diesel compounds from cellulose, which would make it a better source of biofuel that anything we use at the moment.” The study appears on Tuesday in a peer-reviewed British journal, Microbiology. Strobel, a 70-year-old veteran of the world’s rainforests, said that he came across Gliocladium roseum thanks to “two cases of serendipity”.

20081104_strobelgaryThe first was in the late 1990s, when his team, working in Honduras, came across a previously unidentified fungus called Muscodor albus. By sheer accident, they found that M albus releases a powerful volatile – meaning gassy – antibiotic. Intrigued by this, the team tested M. Albus on the ulmo tree, whose fibres are a known habitat for fungi, in the hope that this would show up a new fungus.

“Quite unexpectedly, G roseum grew in the presence of these gases when almost all other fungi were killed. It was also making volatile antibiotics,” said Strobel. “Then, when we examined the gas composition of G. roseum, we were totally surprised to learn that it was making a plethora of hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon derivatives. The results were totally unexpected and very exciting, and almost every hair on my arms stood on end.”

Strobel’s team put the G roseum through its paces in the lab, growing it on an oatmeal-based jelly and on cellulose. Extractor fans drew off the gases exuded by the fungus, and analysis showed that many of them were hydrocarbons, including at least eight compounds that are the most abundant ingredients in diesel. … – phenom

“The main value of this discovery may not be the organism itself, but may be the genes responsible for the production of these gases,” Gary Strobel said.”There are certain enzymes that are responsible for the conversion of substrates such as cellulose to myco-diesel.” –sciblogging

… And of course, there’s a somewhat opposite process: jet fuel fungus that can live on jet fuel as a primary carbon source. Useful for bioremediation of contaminated soils. – sparksyn

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