Study on Fungi Evolution Answers Questions About Ancient Coal Formation and May Help Advance Future Biofuels Production
(National Science Foundation) Study reveals the potentially large influences of fungi, one of the most biologically diverse classes of organisms, on our energy supplies
A new study–which includes the first large-scale comparison of fungi that cause rot decay–suggests that the evolution of a type of fungi known as white rot may have brought an end to a 60-million-year-long period of coal deposition known as the Carboniferous period. Coal deposits that accumulated during the Carboniferous, which ended about 300 million years ago, have historically fueled about 50 percent of U.S. electric power generation.
In addition, the study provides insights about diverse fungal enzymes that might be used in the future to help generate biofuels, which are currently among the most promising and attractive alternatives to fossil fuels for powering vehicles.
The study, which was conducted by a team of 71 researchers from 12 countries, appears in the June 29, 2012 issue of Scienceand was partially funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
There are almost 1.5 million fungi species on Earth.
…But once white rot attacks and destroys lignin, the matrix collapses, and the cellulose is freed–to be devoured by the white rot as food.
The ability of white rot fungi to decay lignin may ultimately be used to help conquer what is among the world’s most longstanding and vexing problems associated with the large-scale production of biofuels: that is, obtaining plant carbohydrates that could be converted into biofuels via fermentation processes.
It may ultimately be feasible to use white rot to break down lignin to release cellulose from cell walls, which could then be broken down into sugars. Next, the sugars would be fed to yeast that would be fermented into alcohols that would provide the bases for new biofuels. READ MORE and MORE (Science Daily) and MORE (TreeHugger.com) and MORE (Biomass Magazine) Abstract