text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to directorate navigationSkip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation
News
design element
News
News From the Field
For the News Media
Special Reports
Research Overviews
NSF-Wide Investments
Speeches & Lectures
NSF Current Newsletter
Multimedia Gallery
News Archive
News by Research Area
Arctic & Antarctic
Astronomy & Space
Biology
Chemistry & Materials
Computing
Earth & Environment
Education
Engineering
Mathematics
Nanoscience
People & Society
Physics
 

Email this pagePrint this page


Press Release 08-195
Obscure Fungus Produces Diesel Fuel Components

Tiny organism illuminates new path toward biofuel production

Photo of cultures of the fungus Gliocladium roseum that produce hydrocarbons.

Cultures of the fungus Gliocladium roseum produce hydrocarbons.
Credit and Larger Version

November 6, 2008

A wild fungus has been found to produce a variety of hydrocarbon components of diesel fuel. The harmless, microscopic fungus, known as Gliocladium roseum (NRRL 50073), lives quietly within ulmo trees in the Patagonian rainforest.

Gary Strobel of Montana State University has found that the fungus produces many energy-rich hydrocarbons, and that the particular diesel components produced can be varied by changing the growing medium and environment of the fungus. The fungus even performs under low-oxygen conditions like those found deep underground.

Strobel's discovery suggests that fungi living in ancient plants may have contributed to the natural formation of crude oil, a slow process that occurs when organic matter is subjected to high pressure and heat under layers of rock.

"Time will tell if this microbe can be developed for useful purposes for mankind," said Strobel. He envisions these fungi, or their genetic material, being used in the future to purposefully manufacture hydrocarbons for fuel.

Before that can happen, researchers must figure out how to increase hydrocarbon yields from the fungus and find ways to supply the remaining hydrocarbon components needed for complete diesel fuel.

Strobel is now checking other strains of Gliocladium roseum for hydrocarbon production. The strain originally isolated from the tree produced annulene, a component of rocket fuel.

"Upon storage it diverted hydrocarbon production to simple things like octane and heptane," which are two components of diesel fuel, Strobel said. "As is the usual case in biology, if one microorganism can do nifty biochemical tricks, so can others."

"Dr. Strobel's research on a microbial route from biomass to hydrocarbon-based fuels is resulting in very exciting findings," said Bruce Hamilton, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems, which funded the research. "This is a promising area of biofuels research, and it is wonderful to see his work move so rapidly into peer-reviewed, published literature."

Strobel's research appears in the November 2008 issue of Microbiology.

More information on Strobel and his research

-- Cecile Gonzalez, NSF cgonzalez@nsf.gov

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Cecile J. Gonzalez, NSF, (703) 292-8300, cgonzalez@nsf.gov
Tracy Ellig, Montana State University, (406) 994-5607, tellig@montana.edu

Program Contacts
Bruce K. Hamilton, NSF, (703) 292-8320, bhamilto@nsf.gov

Principal Investigators
Gary Strobel, Montana State University, (406) 994-5148, uplgs@montana.edu

Related Websites
Green Gasoline: A renewable petroleum alternative from plants: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsmedia/greengasoline/index.jsp
Fantastic Fungus: Strobelís earlier discovery of antimicrobial fungus: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=104473
Montana State University: http://www.montana.edu

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

 Get News Updates by Email 

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
Awards Searches: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/

 

Photo of tree leaves that host harmless fungi known as endophytes.
Fungi known as endophytes live harmlessly in plant hosts.
Credit and Larger Version



Email this pagePrint this page
Back to Top of page