The Biofuel Industry Could be Revolutionized by…a Bug

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The world of biofuels might just be changed forever by a bug that is found in nearly every compost heap. Unlike traditionally used yeasts, the bug is very tolerant of tough plant matter. That means it could help convert a variety of raw materials—including willow, forest waste, and wheat stalks—into fuel.

The bug, dubbed TM242, is a Geobacillus bacterium that has been genetically altered so that it stops converting food into waste products besides ethanol. It also has a boosted metabolism.

The company spearheading the compost bug project, UK-based TMO Renewables, has already built a trial plant to demonstrate the process. According to the company, a plant fed into the TMO process could create 15% more ethanol and reduce its energy consumption by 35% to 50%.

To the dismay of many people (including myself), TMO’s technology will initially be used in bioethanol production from corn. However, they do plan to eventually use their process with so-called second-generation biofuels that are not created from foodstuffs.

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