Fungi found out to get sustainable biomass heat production

24 noviembre 2016

Obtaining sustainable energy from clean sources is one of the biggest challenges in our century, and has a crucial role in the circular economy.

Obtaining sustainable energy from clean sources is one of the biggest challenges in our century, and has a crucial role in the circular economy. Switching from coal and oil to biomass for heat production has proven to be a successful step, but it is still far from perfect. Burning wood or other biomass –plant material and/or animal waste– releases some pollutants in the form of fine particles ad volatile organic compounds (VOCs), responsible for several health and environmental problems. But a greener option might be close.

A team of researchers in The Netherlands have found out that fungi can degrade the biomass materials and release heat in the process without emitting any particles or VOCs. The scientific team, led by Leire Caizán, incubated two fungi species that do well in hot climates: lignin-degrading Phanerochaete chrysosporium and cellulose-degrading Chaetomium thermophilum and tested the results with birch wood, either sterile or in its natural state. The result, published a few weeks ago in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (one of the publications of the American Chemical Society), showed that the second fungus produced up to 0.63 Watts per kilogram when degrading wood with its usual natural biota.

On the right track

That means that, eventually, biomass could be used just as it is –including its natural microorganisms– to be degraded by fungi, which will make it a cheap easy way to get green indoor heating. The process would be highly sustainable considering that there is no shortage of biomass: it is produced continuously both on purpose and as a waste product from paper and agricultural industries. The application of fungi for biomass heat production, however, is not ready yet. The researchers say that they now need "to determine optimal nutrient, moisture ad temperature conditions, as well as other parameters, to increase power production to 6 W/kg", the average heat needed for a home. They also need to test the results on a larger scale to validate the potential of biological, pollutant-free, wood degradation. But they are certainly on the right track to get it.

 


CREDIT: American Chemical Society

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