A type of fungus is being used to produce a hydrocarbon-based fuel by engine experts and biofuels researchers at Sandia National Labs – through funding by the Department of Energy.
The biofuels being investigated are produced by a class of fungi called endophytes that live between the walls of plant cells. The cellular material in plant walls can be converted into hydrocarbon compounds that work well as fuels for internal combustion engines.
The fungi can turn crystalline cellulosic material directly into fuel-type hydrocarbons without any mechanical breakdown – eliminating the need for the cost-intensive industrial processes required to break down biomass.
Through genetic manipulation, the Sandia team hopes to improve yield of the biofuel by tailoring the molecular structure of the hydrocarbons that are produced.