BIOLOGY ADVANCEMENTBIOFUEL PRODUCTION – NEW ADVANCESMay 12, 2013 — Advanced biofuels – liquid fuelssynthesized from the sugars in cellulosic biomass –offer a clean, green and renewable alternative togasoline, diesel and jet fuels. Bringing the costs ofproducing these advanced biofuels down tocompetitive levels with petrofuels, however, is amajor challenge. Researchers at the U.S. Departmentof Energy (DOE)s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), abioenergy research center led by Berkeley Lab, havetaken another step towards meeting this challenge with the development of a new technique forpretreating cellulosic biomass with ionic liquids - salts that are liquids rather than crystals at roomtemperature. This new technique requires none of the expensive enzymes used in previous ionicliquid pretreatments, and makes it easier to recover fuel sugars and recycle the ionic liquid.With the burning of fossil fuels continuing to add 9 billion metric tons of excess carbon dioxide tothe atmosphere each year, the need for carbon neutral, cost-competitive renewable alternativefuels has never been greater. Advanced biofuels, produced from the microbial fermentation ofsugars in lignocellulosic biomass, could displace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel on a gallon-for-gallonbasis and be directly dropped into todays engines and infrastructures without impactingperformance. If done correctly, the use of advanced biofuels would not add excess carbon to theatmosphere.Environmentally benign ionic liquids are used as green chemistry substitutes for volatile organicsolvents. While showing great potential as a biomass pretreatment for dissolving lignocelluloseand helping to hydrolyze the resulting aqueous solution into fuel sugars, the best of these ionicliquids so far have required the use of expensive enzymes. Recent studies have shown that acidcatalysts, such as hydrochloric or Brønsted, can effectively replace enzyme-based hydrolysis, butthe subsequent separation of sugars and ionic liquids becomes a difficult and expensive problemcan require the use of significant amounts of water.Guided by molecular dynamics simulations carried out at DOEs National Energy ResearchScientific Computing Center (NERSC), Simmons and his colleagues at JBEI solved this problem bydeploying the ionic liquid imidazolium chloride in tandem with an acid catalyst."Imidazolium is the most effective known ionic liquid for breaking down lignocellulose and thechloride anion is amenable with the acid catalyst," Simmons says. "The combination makes it easyto extract fermentable sugars that have been liberated from biomass and also easy to recover theionic liquid for recycling. By eliminating the need for enzymes and decreasing the waterconsumption requirements of more traditional ionic liquid pretreatments we should be able toreduce the costs of sugar production from lignocellulose."
GREEN BATTERIES FROM A PLANTMadder yields natural cathodeUpdated Apr. 28, 2013 – Recent research shows that Common Madder (Rubia tinctorum) can beused to produce rechargeable, green batteries. Common Madder, a climbing plant native tosouthern Europe and the Mediterranean, is also known as Dyers Madder because a red dyeextracted from it has long been used to color cloth.Scientists at Rice University and the City College of New York have discovered that the madderplant (Rubia tinctorum) is a good source of purpurin, an organic dye that can be turned into ahighly effective, natural cathode for lithium-ion batteries.According to lead author Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, a research scientist in the Rice lab ofmaterials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, their teams research is creating environmentally friendlybatteries that will solve many of the problems associated with the ordinary lithium-ion batterieswidely in use today."Green batteries are the need of the hour, yet this topic hasnt really been addressed properly,"Reddy said. "This is an area that needs immediate attention and sustained thrust, but you cannotdiscover sustainable technology overnight." He says the focus of the research community iscurrently still primarily on improving the features of conventional batteries. Issues such assustainability and recyclability tend to get sidelined.Though lithium-ion batteries are the standard, Reddy said, rechargeable units cost a lot toproduce. "Theyre not environmentally friendly. They use cathodes of lithium cobalt oxide, whichare very expensive. You have to mine the cobalt metal and manufacture the cathodes in a high-temperature environment."And then, recycling is a big issue," he said. "In 2010, almost 10 billion lithium-ion batteries had tobe recycled, which uses a lot of energy. Extracting cobalt from the batteries is an expensiveprocess." Eliminating cobalt would mean eliminating a hazardous material, allow batteries to beproduced at room temperature, and greatly reduce the cost of recycling.
The team first discovered the special properties of purpurin while they were testing variousorganic molecules for the ability to electrochemically interact with lithium. Purpurin turned out tobe the best at binding lithium ions. To add conductivity they added 20 percent carbon, and thenbuilt a half-battery cell with a capacity of 90 milliamp-hours per gram after 50 charge/dischargecycles. As it turns out, such cathodes can be made at room temperature."Its a new mechanism we are proposing with this paper, and the chemistry is really simple,"Reddy said. He suggested agricultural waste may be a source of purpurin, as may other suitablemolecules, which makes the process even more economical.But Reddy hopes to formulate completely green batteries. The team is looking for organicmolecules suitable for anodes and for an electrolyte that doesnt break the molecules down. Hefully expects to have a working prototype of a complete organic battery within a few years."What weve come up with should lead to much more discussion in the scientific communityabout green batteries," he said.
AN INNOVATIVE NEW STEM CELL TECHNOLOGYThis could potentially benefit patients of many conditions - including sickle cell anaemia - hasmoved a step closer to becoming a worldwide standard, thanks to the help of investors fromthe Arab world.With their continued support the company says its stem cell technology is poised to transformthe lives of millions currently suffering from debilitating diseases.The successful completion in India of human proof in principle trials of the innovative process,which could spell relief for those afflicted with anaemia, diabetes and other ailments wasannounced this week by TriStem, a company founded in 1999 by Saudi medical specialist Dr.Ilham Abuljadayel and her husband, investment banker, Mr. Ghazi Dhoot.The treatment, based on more than a decade of research, challenges the fundamental basics ofcellular biology. It has enormous potential within the Arab world, home of a number of TriStemsinvestors and ironically a region with an unusually high incidence of anaemia and diabetes.Although the path from discovery to distribution of new medical technology is a long andexpensive one, the success of Dr. Abuljadayels recent proof of principle trials in India have beena crucial part of the building blocks needed to prove the process is safe and effective.Source: The ultimate middle east ~ http://www.ameinfo.com/47395.html Biology Current Events Online The Nature ~ http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/index_biologicalsciences.html