Microbial Production of Energy Colloquium- March 10-12, 2006

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The American Academy of Microbiology convened a colloquium March 10-12, 2006, in San Francisco, California, to discuss the production of energy fuels by microbial conversions. The status of research into various microbial energy technologies, the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches, research needs in the field, and education and training issues were examined, with the goal of identifying routes for producing biofuels that would both decrease the need for fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, the choices for providing energy are limited. Policy makers and the research community must begin to pursue a broader array of ... continued below

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Buckley, Merry & Wall, Judy October 1, 2006.

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The American Academy of Microbiology convened a colloquium March 10-12, 2006, in San Francisco, California, to discuss the production of energy fuels by microbial conversions. The status of research into various microbial energy technologies, the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches, research needs in the field, and education and training issues were examined, with the goal of identifying routes for producing biofuels that would both decrease the need for fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, the choices for providing energy are limited. Policy makers and the research community must begin to pursue a broader array of potential energy technologies. A diverse energy portfolio that includes an assortment of microbial energy choices will allow communities and consumers to select the best energy solution for their own particular needs. Funding agencies and governments alike need to prepare for future energy needs by investing both in the microbial energy technologies that work today and in the untested technologies that will serve the world’s needs tomorrow. More mature bioprocesses, such as ethanol production from starchy materials and methane from waste digestors, will find applications in the short term. However, innovative techniques for liquid fuel or biohydrogen production are among the longer term possibilities that should also be vigorously explored, starting now. Microorganisms can help meet human energy needs in any of a number of ways. In their most obvious role in energy conversion, microorganisms can generate fuels, including ethanol, hydrogen, methane, lipids, and butanol, which can be burned to produce energy. Alternatively, bacteria can be put to use in microbial fuel cells, where they carry out the direct conversion of biomass into electricity. Microorganisms may also be used some day to make oil and natural gas technologies more efficient by sequestering carbon or by assisting in the recovery of oil and natural gas from the subsurface. The participants discussed--key microbial conversion paths; overarching research issues; current funding models and microbial energy research; education, training, interdisciplinary cooperation and communication. Their recommendations are--Cellulose and lignocellulose are the preferred substrates for producing liquid transportation fuels, of which ethanol is the most commonly considered example. Generating fuels from these materials is still difficult and costly. A number of challenges need to be met in order to make the conversion of cellulose and lignocellulose to transportation fuels more cost-competitive. The design of hydrogen-producing bioreactors must be improved in order to more effectively manage hydrogen removal, oxygen exclusion, and, in the case of photobioreactors, to capture light energy more efficiently. Methane production may be optimized by fine-tuning methanogenic microbial communities. The ability to transfer electrons to an anode in a microbial fuel cell is probably very broadly distributed in the bacterial world. The scientific community needs a larger inventory of cultivated microorganisms from which to draw for energy conversion development. New and unusual organisms for manufacturing fuels and for use in fuel cells can be discovered using bioprospecting techniques. Particular emphasis should be placed on finding microbes, microbial communities, and enzymes that can enhance the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to usable sugars. Many of the microbial processes critical to energy conversion are carried out by complex communities of organisms, and there is a need to better understand the community interactions that make these transformations possible. Better understanding of microbial community structure, robustness, networks, homeostasis, and cell-to-cell signaling is also needed. A better understanding of the basic enzymology of microorganisms is needed in order to move forward more quickly with microbial energy production. Research should focus on the actions of enzymes and enzyme complexes within the context of the whole cell, how they’re regulated, where they’re placed, and what they interact with. Better modeling tools are needed to facilitate progress in microbial energy transformations. Models of metabolic dynamics, including levels of reductants and regulation of electron flow need to be improved. Global techno-economic models of microbial energy conversion systems, which seek to simultaneously describe the resource flows into and out of a system as well as its economics, are needed and should be made publicly available on the internet. More emphasis needs to be placed on multidisciplinary education and training and on cooperation between disciplines in order to make the most of microbial energy conversion technologies and to meet the research needs of the future.

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  • "Microbial Production of Energy," San Francisco, CA, March 10-12, 2006

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  • Report No.: DOE/ER/64162 -Final Report
  • Grant Number: FG02-06ER64162
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 895093
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc887074

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  • October 1, 2006

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Nov. 4, 2016, 3:32 p.m.

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Buckley, Merry & Wall, Judy. Microbial Production of Energy Colloquium- March 10-12, 2006, article, October 1, 2006; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc887074/: accessed August 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.