Patagonian Fungus Can Synthesize Fuel
Wired reports that a fungus growing inside trees in the Patagonian rain forest can naturally produce a mix of hydrocarbons that are very similar to diesel fuel. The process to synthesize plant material into complex hydrocarbons has traditionally been difficult to achieve without applying large amounts of heat, pressure or chemicals. This fungus however, can naturally expedite this process. Though not ready for commercial production just yet, this discovery is important in understanding how hydrocarbon is produced.
“This report presents no information on the cost-effectiveness or other details to make G. roseum an alternative fuel source,” they write. “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.”
The genome of the fungus is being analyzed at Yale University under the direction of Scott Strobel, a molecular biologist and Gary Strobel’s son.
But beyond the biofuel implications, Strobel said that because the fungus can manufacture what we would normally think of as components of crude oil, it casts some doubt on the idea that crude oil is a fossil fuel.
“It may be the case that organisms like this produced some — maybe not all — but some of the world’s crude,” Strobel said.