A Korean research team headed by Choi In-gul, a professor at the Department of Biotechnology at Korea University, has successfully defined the fermentation process of red algae and found a clue to making ethanol, a 3rd gen fuel for vehicles.
The production of ethanol from marine algae, which are abundant, could replace a significant portion of gasoline consumption. In particular, red algae contains a lot of carbohydrates, which make those plants ideal for the production of bioethanol. But production has been limited, since the metabolic pathways of 3,6-Anhydro-L-galactose (L-AHG), which makes up the major ingredient of red algae, have not yet been mapped.
However, the research team has succeeded in separating Vibrio vulnificus, which live on L-AHG, and defining the metabolic pathways in which this microorganism breaks down the main ingredient of red algae.
The production of ethanol from red algae will be made possible by fermenting L-AHG, using colon bacillus with new fermentation enzymes included in the newly-discovered metabolic pathways.
After applying new fermentation enzymes to colon bacillus that are used to make ethanol, the production of ethanol increased 24 percent compared to existing colon bacillus utilized to produce ethanol. Professor Kim said, “We anticipate that the newly-developed method could be used as core technology to produce biofuel and bioplastics using seaweed biomass as a source of energy in our country that lacks lignocellulosic and herbal biomass.”
The study was funded by Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), under the project to support leading researchers. The research findings were first published online on Sept. 30 by Environmental Microbiology, a monthly scientific journal published by the Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons.