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The Fungus That Naturally Synthesizes Diesel

DrakeonDrakeon Registered User regular
edited June 2009 in Debate and/or Discourse
So anyone else heard of this Gliocladium roseum? I just heard about it from a podcast I listen to (Stuff You Should Know) and it sounds incredibly awesome.

From a Wired Article:
wired wrote:
A fungus that lives inside trees in the Patagonian rain forest naturally makes a mix of hydrocarbons that bears a striking resemblance to diesel, biologists announced today. And the fungus can grow on cellulose, a major component of tree trunks, blades of grass and stalks that is the most abundant carbon-based plant material on Earth.

From the podcast, it sounded like they only discovered this 6 months ago. Who knows how cost effective it is to replicate it on a mass scale yet, which will ultimately determine how much of a long term solution this could be to helping us solve the looming problem of running out of oil. Has anyone else heard about this little wonder fungus?

Drakeon on
PSN: Drakieon XBL: Drakieon Steam: TheDrakeon
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Posts

  • Grid SystemGrid System Registered User
    edited June 2009
    My initial reaction here is that I'm not sure that what we need right now is a(nother) way to turn forests into fuel.

  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tighter than R. Kelly in his teens. Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    That's pretty interesting. The "mycodiesel" stems from a defensive mechanism from what wiki says. I wonder how this, given enough research, will compete against biofuels derived from algae.

    Thanks for the link. Learning every day :)

    PSN/WiiU: TheMakersMark
  • TL DRTL DR Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    My initial reaction here is that I'm not sure that what we need right now is a(nother) way to turn forests into fuel.

    Hemp.

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  • DrakeonDrakeon Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    My initial reaction here is that I'm not sure that what we need right now is a(nother) way to turn forests into fuel.

    Well, from what I understand you can replicate it in a lab, which is a big plus. Question is, how much does that cost.

    PSN: Drakieon XBL: Drakieon Steam: TheDrakeon
  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Tighter than R. Kelly in his teens. Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    If this fungus can get down on cellulose, it could pretty much be cultivated anywhere, right?

    PSN/WiiU: TheMakersMark
  • TL DRTL DR Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Drakeon wrote: »
    My initial reaction here is that I'm not sure that what we need right now is a(nother) way to turn forests into fuel.

    Well, from what I understand you can replicate it in a lab, which is a big plus. Question is, how much does that cost.

    Yeah, I guess it would be much cheaper and easier to control to just mix the fungus and cellulose in a vat or something. Probably a lot of subsidized corn.

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  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Drakeon wrote: »
    My initial reaction here is that I'm not sure that what we need right now is a(nother) way to turn forests into fuel.

    Well, from what I understand you can replicate it in a lab, which is a big plus. Question is, how much does that cost.

    Yeah, I guess it would be much cheaper and easier to control to just mix the fungus and cellulose in a vat or something. Probably a lot of subsidized corn.

    Those corncobs aren't going to turn themselves into something economically viable.

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  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Bioreactors are really expensive, and even more so if you are using an organism that is not well known. The best and most exciting thing about this is the 2008 paper that states
    Its
    ultimate value may reside in the genes/enzymes that
    control hydrocarbon production, and our paper is a
    necessary first step that may lead to development
    programmes to make this a commercial venture.

    http://plantsciences.montana.edu/facultyorstaff/faculty/strobel/documents/mycodiesel.pdf

    Meaning, the genes that produce these hydrocarbons can be put into another organism that is easier to grow, and grows faster. However, there are a few groups already working on biofuel production via bioreactor + engineered organisms, including Craig Venter (you may remember him for trying to patent the human genome) and company. So, its a pretty big race in the biotech world, very secretive. No idea if this will play a part or not, but don't get your hopes up.

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  • ShaggyShaggy Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    My opinion is that, while this may not be commercially viable now, at least in the future we won't (hopefully) be fucked if we run out of oil. Though the big part of me hopes that this becomes cheap to produce and then we don't have to rely on drilling for oil.

  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Shaggy wrote: »
    My opinion is that, while this may not be commercially viable now, at least in the future we won't (hopefully) be fucked if we run out of oil. Though the big part of me hopes that this becomes cheap to produce and then we don't have to rely on drilling for oil.

    It'd be better if it was roughly as expensive as extracting oil from the tar sands or whatever so that we don't have to perform the more environmentally destructive methods of extraction, but it is still expensive enough to force us towards better designed cities, regions, and towns, and more alternative methods of transportation.

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  • DukiDuki Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited June 2009
    moniker wrote: »
    Shaggy wrote: »
    My opinion is that, while this may not be commercially viable now, at least in the future we won't (hopefully) be fucked if we run out of oil. Though the big part of me hopes that this becomes cheap to produce and then we don't have to rely on drilling for oil.

    It'd be better if it was roughly as expensive as extracting oil from the tar sands or whatever so that we don't have to perform the more environmentally destructive methods of extraction, but it is still expensive enough to force us towards better designed cities, regions, and towns, and more alternative methods of transportation.

    Then what will we make plastic out of?

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    The rest of you, I fucking hate you for the fact that I now have a blue dot on this god awful thread.
  • FarthingFarthing Registered User
    edited June 2009
    I don't really understand the benefits of this. Having attempted to find the relevant sections on wikipedia, I don't understand how biofuels are more efficient than, say, solar power. Doesn't a biofuel store glucose through photosynthesis, using the sun as an energy source? Are biofuels more efficient than current solar power technology, or just more portable?

    'tis a bit off topic, but I've always wondered a bit about this...

  • sligmastasligmasta Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    i think the draw is that with biofuels the change to the current infrastructure is minimal

  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Scalfin wrote: »
    moniker wrote: »
    Shaggy wrote: »
    My opinion is that, while this may not be commercially viable now, at least in the future we won't (hopefully) be fucked if we run out of oil. Though the big part of me hopes that this becomes cheap to produce and then we don't have to rely on drilling for oil.

    It'd be better if it was roughly as expensive as extracting oil from the tar sands or whatever so that we don't have to perform the more environmentally destructive methods of extraction, but it is still expensive enough to force us towards better designed cities, regions, and towns, and more alternative methods of transportation.

    Then what will we make plastic out of?

    Existing plastic. And there is a lot of shit that we waste plastic on when cardboard would be just as useful if not better.

    Besides, wouldn't we be using something different from 'natural diesel' in order to make plastic? I was under the impression that it came from petroleum, not refined whatever petroleum gets turned into. That being the case we'd save the real oil for plastics and switch cars over to this until battery technology catches up.

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  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Farthing wrote: »
    I don't really understand the benefits of this. Having attempted to find the relevant sections on wikipedia, I don't understand how biofuels are more efficient than, say, solar power. Doesn't a biofuel store glucose through photosynthesis, using the sun as an energy source? Are biofuels more efficient than current solar power technology, or just more portable?

    'tis a bit off topic, but I've always wondered a bit about this...

    Photovoltaics don't store energy, so I'm not really getting the comparison. And biofuels suck, generally, and use more energy than they save. This doesn't really appear to be a biofuel, though. At least not in the traditional sense of it. You don't distill the fungus into flammable materials you just grow a shitload of them in a vat and it'll produce diesel for you.

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  • FarthingFarthing Registered User
    edited June 2009
    moniker wrote: »
    Farthing wrote: »
    I don't really understand the benefits of this. Having attempted to find the relevant sections on wikipedia, I don't understand how biofuels are more efficient than, say, solar power. Doesn't a biofuel store glucose through photosynthesis, using the sun as an energy source? Are biofuels more efficient than current solar power technology, or just more portable?

    'tis a bit off topic, but I've always wondered a bit about this...

    Photovoltaics don't store energy, so I'm not really getting the comparison. And biofuels suck, generally, and use more energy than they save. This doesn't really appear to be a biofuel, though. At least not in the traditional sense of it. You don't distill the fungus into flammable materials you just grow a shitload of them in a vat and it'll produce diesel for you.

    But isn't this fungus is getting the energy to make the diesel from somewhere? On the basis of my (sketchy) knowledge of the conservation of energy law, the energy to make a mollecule with a high amount of energy in it has to come from somewhere, and it seems to me this is likely to be the sun. I suppose that biofuel was the wrong word to use.

    I just thought that solar power (and putting it into batteries) was more the way to go, but as you just said that battery technology wasn't good enough for that, I guess not.

  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Farthing wrote: »
    I just thought that solar power (and putting it into batteries) was more the way to go, but as you just said that battery technology wasn't good enough for that, I guess not.

    Solar and atomic are the best sources of energy. Gasoline and diesel are the best ways to STORE that energy. They are liquid batteries.

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  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Technically oil is solar energy, in a sense.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    moniker wrote: »
    Technically oil is solar energy, in a sense.

    Well, it's more the bonds in the polymers or something like that. I mean it's just typical chemical energy stuff.

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  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    moniker wrote: »
    Technically oil is solar energy, in a sense.

    Well, it's more the bonds in the polymers or something like that. I mean it's just typical chemical energy stuff.

    Yes, but its produced via decomposing plant and animal life from millions of years ago. Plants (and animals that fed on them) that were only able to grow thanks to the sun.

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  • matt has a problemmatt has a problem Six pack on a dick Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Wasn't there a type of algae that was found to do the same thing a while back?

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    All my fuckin life I lived a normal fuckin life
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    moniker wrote: »
    Yes, but its produced via decomposing plant and animal life from millions of years ago. Plants (and animals that fed on them) that were only able to grow thanks to the sun.

    Yes, but they're still a battery that stores the energy, even if the battery itself was produced using said energy.

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  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited June 2009
    moniker wrote: »
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    moniker wrote: »
    Technically oil is solar energy, in a sense.

    Well, it's more the bonds in the polymers or something like that. I mean it's just typical chemical energy stuff.

    Yes, but its produced via decomposing plant and animal life from millions of years ago. Plants (and animals that fed on them) that were only able to grow thanks to the sun.
    Yeah, but everything is solar energy according to that reasoning. Still doesn't keep that pesky CO2 under control.

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  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited June 2009
    Wasn't there a type of algae that was found to do the same thing a while back?
    Yeah, its not the first time I've heard about this being possible, but I thought they had to be tweaked genetically to do anything in useful amounts.

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  • FarthingFarthing Registered User
    edited June 2009
    The Cat wrote: »
    moniker wrote: »
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    moniker wrote: »
    Technically oil is solar energy, in a sense.

    Well, it's more the bonds in the polymers or something like that. I mean it's just typical chemical energy stuff.

    Yes, but its produced via decomposing plant and animal life from millions of years ago. Plants (and animals that fed on them) that were only able to grow thanks to the sun.
    Yeah, but everything is solar energy according to that reasoning. Still doesn't keep that pesky CO2 under control.

    Actually, won't this new diesel be carbon neutral?

    or was that your point.

  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Farthing wrote: »
    Actually, won't this new diesel be carbon neutral?

    or was that your point.

    Only if it scrubs the carbon out of the air.

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  • FarthingFarthing Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Farthing wrote: »
    Actually, won't this new diesel be carbon neutral?

    or was that your point.

    Only if it scrubs the carbon out of the air.

    Where else will the carbon come from? I would have thought the carbon used would be carbon previously taken out of the atmosphere during photosynthesis.

  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Farthing wrote: »
    Where else will the carbon come from? I would have thought the carbon used would be carbon previously taken out of the atmosphere during photosynthesis.

    Oil gets used in many "biofuel" production cycles, which means releasing stored carbon from the ground.

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  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited June 2009
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Farthing wrote: »
    Actually, won't this new diesel be carbon neutral?

    or was that your point.

    Only if it scrubs the carbon out of the air.
    but it goes straight back in when you burn it again. There's no permanent or even long-term shift in C stores from atmo to soil or water or biomass. If we had complete-combustion engines things might be different.

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  • FarthingFarthing Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Is this oil inherently part of the cycle, or is it more out of inefficiency? (I mean, is oil needed as part of the process, or is it more all the oil expended carting about tree trunks and such?)

    My understanding was the process went something like:
    Plant photosynthesises -> fungi breaks down plant and creates hydrocarbons -> we burn hydrocarbons, releasing water and CO2, which the plant then uses to photosynthesise.

  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    The Cat wrote: »
    but it goes straight back in when you burn it again. There's no permanent or even long-term shift in C stores from atmo to soil or water or biomass. If we had complete-combustion engines things might be different.

    Well yeah, carbon neutrality isn't the same as carbon reduction. It's just a matter of "this doesn't make things any WORSE." Of course, that isn't really true because of the concentrations of the carbon deposits being shifted around and concentrated, but it's the idea of it.

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  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited June 2009
    I'd argue that it does make things worse by delaying reasons to change, much like thermal depolymerisation.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    That too. Much like biofuels in general. They're half-steps in order to allow the owners of the current infrastructure to continue to make their profits and pay their bribes.

    The Green Movement is just as corrupt as any other movement.

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  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    That too. Much like biofuels in general. They're half-steps in order to allow the owners of the current infrastructure to continue to make their profits and pay their bribes.

    The Green Movement is just as corrupt as any other movement.

    The Green Movement is largely the one pushing for more extreme measures and inculcates a 'pure' form of environmental policy while yelling at even a slight stray from their path. Even when objective science points out the stupidity and 'green washing' of a number of their proposed 'solutions' or when political reality gets in the way of their actual solutions.

    Which isn't to say that I'm happy with the Dem's and the Waxman-Markley bill, but it's at least a step in the right direction. The notion of 100% auction or nothing seems idiosyncratic with the idea of actually improving the environment rather than just beating your chest and stroking your green 'thumb' while the world burns.

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  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited June 2009
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    That too. Much like biofuels in general. They're half-steps in order to allow the owners of the current infrastructure to continue to make their profits and pay their bribes.

    The Green Movement is just as corrupt as any other movement.
    wow, non-sequitur much?

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  • FarthingFarthing Registered User
    edited June 2009
    That too. Much like biofuels in general. They're half-steps in order to allow the owners of the current infrastructure to continue to make their profits and pay their bribes.

    I wonder: how long would everyone have to use electric cars (assuming that is what you intend rather than a half-step) for before enough carbon has been saved to justify the 'carbon cost' of the infrastructure that would have to be in place for everyone to use these cars? How does this compare with the 'carbon cost' of the switch to this natural diesel or continuing in our ways?

    (by carbon cost, I mean net emissions, or general environment hurting)
    (though this is getting to be a bit of a tangent; being a newbie here, how off topic is too off topic?)

  • monikermoniker Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Farthing wrote: »
    That too. Much like biofuels in general. They're half-steps in order to allow the owners of the current infrastructure to continue to make their profits and pay their bribes.

    I wonder: how long would everyone have to use electric cars (assuming that is what you intend rather than a half-step) for before enough carbon has been saved to justify the 'carbon cost' of the infrastructure that would have to be in place for everyone to use these cars? How does this compare with the 'carbon cost' of the switch to this natural diesel or continuing in our ways?

    (by carbon cost, I mean net emissions, or general environment hurting)
    (though this is getting to be a bit of a tangent; being a newbie here, how off topic is too off topic?)

    Cars are the least of our worries when it comes to carbon emissions. Vehicles aren't even a quarter of CO2 released by the country, and even within that segment you'd get far more bang for the buck by taking long haul trucks off the road and onto rails. Also, electrifying the freight rail network. The primary cause and issue that needs to be addressed is the built environment. Chiefly buildings, but also urban/regional planning at both the micro and macro scale. Cul-de-sacs and single entrance neighborhoods are the worst thing ever.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    moniker wrote: »
    Cars are the least of our worries when it comes to carbon emissions. Vehicles aren't even a quarter of CO2 released by the country, and even within that segment you'd get far more bang for the buck by taking long haul trucks off the road and onto rails. Also, electrifying the freight rail network. The primary cause and issue that needs to be addressed is the built environment. Chiefly buildings, but also urban/regional planning at both the micro and macro scale. Cul-de-sacs and single entrance neighborhoods are the worst thing ever.

    Yeppers. Fortunately the green building movement is gaining a lot of force lately thanks to advances in money-saving sustainability angles, though there are still a lot of little bugs to work out, and the usual general myopia.

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  • HiroconHirocon Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    It seems like the ultimate goal of biofuels should be to completely replace conventional crude oil. I.e., we use a biofuel that actually gives a positive energy return on investment, and all of the hydrocarbons that were needed to produce the biofuel were themselves biofuels produced earlier, like so:

    land + sunlight + water + (small amount of biofuel) = (large amount of biofuel)

    This would allow us to use hydrocarbon fuel sustainably without having to make (as) massive changes to our infrastructure. Wouldn't this hypothetical energy economy be carbon neutral? Incejucar implied that simply moving the carbon around without a net change in atmospheric carbon would still somehow be harmful, but surely it would be much less harmful than our current system.

    And I know that carbon neutrality isn't enough, we have to eventually actively remove carbon from the atmosphere. But a hypothetical solar-electric energy economy doesn't actively remove carbon from the atmosphere either. To do that we need to re-grow the rainforests and pump unburnt fuel back into depleted oil wells.

    I think a solar-electric energy economy would be a lot better than our current system, but a sustainable carbon-neutral biofuel energy economy would be even better, because it would require smaller changes to our infrastructure.

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