Biofuels to Dissect Locust Guts Dissertation

Excerpt from Dissertation :

Importance of locust guts for this Study

Prediction of the increase in the worldwide energy consumption by 54% between 2001 and 2025 has led to the considerable interest in the production of bioenergy to meet the future needs. Energy derived from biofuels is converted from the metabolism of living organisms. Typically, biofuels has been identified by scientist and environmentalist as the most promising alternative to petroleum and fossil fuels. Biofuels are derived from biomass materials, which are already in solid fuel and later converted to liquid or gaseous fuels, which could be later, be stored for use. (Groom, Gray, Townsend, 2008).

Cellulose, Hemicelluloses and Lignin have been known to be abundant on earth and could be converted to biofuels. However, large-scale production of biofuels has not yet being implemented in many countries. One of the challenges facing the commercial production of biofuels is the costs associated in breaking down the fibrous plant material. However, the destructive capability of locusts could be used to breakdown the tough cellulose that could be used for the production of biofuels. With the capability of the locusts to break down the tough cellulose, lignin and hemicelluloses, the study explores the locust guts wall to identify the metagenome or microbial community inside the locust guts which could be useful for the digestion of lignocelluloses. The identification of microbes inside the locust guts will enhance the greater understanding of degradation of tough cellulose. More importantly, the sequence of information will be useful in identifying the enzymes that could be useful in the commercial production of biofuels.

Rinke et al. (2011) argue that current challenges in the field of biochemistry are the ability to develop a process to break down the lignocellulosic biomass, which include cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. However, the locust guts have been identified to possess the mechanisms that could be used in breaking down the lignocellulosic biomass, which could the used in the production of biofuels. "The desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, possesses an abundant gut microbiota consisting predominantly of Enterobacteriaceae" (Rinke et al. 2011 P. 2689). Typically, the wall of the locust gusts contains the microbes that could be used to digest cellulose rapidly and for commercial use. The cellulolytic activities have identified in the locust gut, which enhances lignocellulose digestion.

Kurtboke & French (2008) also reveal that termite guts provide the significant importance in biodegradation and biorecycling of lignocelluloses, which could contributes to the need of biofuels industry. The authors further argue that there are approximately 2000 species of termites globally. Analysis of termite guts found to produce cellulose, ligninase, xylanase and keratinase in greater number. Thus, Kurtboke et al. (2008) believe that efficient biorecycling system using the termite guts will contribute to the production of biofuels.

This study provides several contributions.

First, the study enhances greater understanding of the locust guts and the composition of the microorganisms that are present in the locust guts. Willis, et al. (2010) argues that locusts compared to other insects have abundant of the enzymatic activities against the tough cellulose substrate and cellulolytic activity. The digestive ?uids of the locusts guts serves as great importance in the breaking down of lignocellulosic biomass.

More importantly, the study provides the greater understanding on the strategy to eliminate the high costs involved in the breaking down of tough cellulose. Using the locusts for the breaking down of the cellulose will decline the costs and enhance costs effectiveness in the production of biofuels.

Another importance of this study is that it will contribute to the body of knowledge on the method to use locust guts for the mass production of biofuels. With constant increase in the petroleum price globally, understanding the mass production of biofuels will serve as alternative to transportation and industrial fuel and this will assist in bringing down the price of petroleum globally.

Bioethanol, Development and Production of Bioethanol vs Petrol

The rising cost of petroleum has led to the dramatic increase in the global production of bioethanol. Recent price of petroleum is estimated to be $95 per barrel. While petroleum production has contributed to the environmental pollution, the increase environmental benefits of the bioethanol production have led to its global great interest. Typically, the bioethanol has been known to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG). With the commercial benefits that could be derived from the production of bioethanol, optimistically, the biofuel could replace petroleum as the major source of transportation fuel in the next two decades. (Rogers, 2010).

Bioethanol is the most widely used biofuels globally, and the world production of bioethanol has been estimated to reach 41 billion litres in 2004. However, Brazil is the largest producer of bioethanol forming 37% of the world production. Followed by the United States and Asia where the U.S. produces 33% and Asia produces 14% of the world production. (Carere et al. 2008).

Atlas (2008) argues that the global focus has been increased in the production of bioethanol because of the low production costs. A large-scale plant producing bioethanol in Sweden reveals that the production costs is less than one dollar, which is between $0.45 and $0.50 per litre. With the low costs of production associated bioethanol, several major oil companies have initiated the interest in the mass production of bioethanol. For example, British Petroleum (BP) announced the plan to set up biofuels business and the company has announced that it would set aside $500 billion for biofuels production. (Rogers, 2010 ).

More importantly, Chevron and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) have set a research laboratory to produce liquid transportation biofuels from the fermentation of algae. However, key technical challenges in the production of bioethnol " include identifying the strains with the highest oil content and growth rates and developing cost-effective production methods" (Atlas 2008 P. 16). However, study by the Department of Energy (2008) reveals that 1.3 billion tons of biomass could be used to produce 60 billion of gallons of bioethanols, and this could replace global petroleum usage. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Energy estimates the production costs of biothenol to be $1.07/gallon. With the mass production of bioethanol, the production costs will further decline which will serve as competition to petroleum fuel by 2015.

The United States consumes 7 billion of petroleum yearly, and many small companies are beginning to produce bioethnol due to the tax subsidies they enjoy, which makes the venture to be economically visible. However, a major jump in the bioethnol production depends on the efficient utilization of cellulose-based biomass as well as being able to utilize the less expensive cellulose for the bioethanol production. (Stephanopoulos, 2007).

Food vs. Fuel

Food is very important for human survival and production of abundant food enhances quality health for man. On the other hand, fuel is one of the mainstays of the economy. OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) member countries use fuels as the mainstay of their economies because these countries generates foreign exchanges from the sale of crude oil. Many industries also use fuel for the production of goods and services and fuel is the major means of transportation in several countries. Several debates have been postulated about food vs. fuel. Report from Science Daily. (2010) reveals that using farmland to produce food is 36% more energy efficient than using farmland for fuel. The ideal is to grow corn for food and leave the left over stalk and corn to produce cellulose and soil conservation. Baffes & Haniotis (2010) also contribute to the argument by pointing out that large production of biofuels in the Unite States and Europe contributes to the global rise in the food price.

Amani & Chad. (2007) support this argument by pointing out that the increase in the production of ethanol will drive up the global food prices. At present, there is still low global demand for biofuels as means of energy and diversion of land to the production of bioethanol may lead to the global food crisis. Despite the argument of the authors about the impact of biofuels production on food price, this study argues that the biofuels may not be necessarily produced from the food crop. This study identifies that biofuels could be produced from Hemicelluloses and Lignin, which could be derived from the back of the wood. Many producers of bioethanol have not yet focused on using Hemicelluloses and Lignin for the production of bioethanol because of the cost of breaking down the tough cellulose. However, the locust guts could be used to break down the tough cellulose from Hemicelluloses and Lignin to produce bioethanol in a large scale. Using Hemicelluloses and Lignin to produce biofuels will stabilize the food prices.

First generation, 2nd generation and 3rd generation of Biofuels

Bioenergy is the chemical energy that contains organic materials, which can be converted into direct energy source from thermochemical or through biological or mechanical process. First generation biofuels is the process where ethanol is produced from waste vegetable oils. First generation biofuels could also be produced from grain and sugar-based ethanol. The advantage of first generation biofuel is…

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