Researchers Find A Way To Make Jet Fuel Components From Fungus

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Caroline Reid

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85 Researchers Find A Way To Make Jet Fuel Components From Fungus
Refueling of an aircraft / MANOCH LUADSONGKRAM via Shutterstock

Wouldn't the world's energy problems be much simpler if we could just make fuel out of rotting plant matter? It looks like researchers might have found a way to make that happen. This has potentially significant implications for sustainably creating fuel for vehicles that have the highest fuel demand: aircrafts.

Researchers from Washington State University (WSU) stated in their press release that they have found a way to make basic fuel components, hydrocarbons, from a fungus called Aspergillus carbonarius ITEM 5010. It can be found on rotting biomaterials: soil, fruit and leaves all provide nutritious homes for the fungus.


In order to create hydrocarbons, the fungus gobbles the nutrients in dry biomatter (such as corn or switchgrass) and produces a series of hydrocarbons in a liquid culture. Hydrocarbons are long-chained molecules that are composed primarily of hydrogen and carbon atoms, and when they burn in oxygen they create a lot of energy.

The scientists tested a variety of nutrition sources to see which one caused the hungry fungus to produce the highest volume of hydrocarbon. A diet of oatmeal turned out to be the best food for hydrocarbon production. (Not just a wholesome breakfast for mankind!) Interestingly, the fungus also produced hydrocarbons using non-edible leftovers from corn production. By taking advantage of cycles like this, we could establish more sustainable recycling methods. Not only would the corn leftovers not go to waste, but they would also produce profitable jet fuel!

Fungi do a good job at making hydrocarbons without interruption, which makes this method of hydrocarbon and biofuel production superior to other techniques that can be fiddly and involve complicated chemical processes. Fungi also have great potential to create the fuel at low cost, noted Birgitte Ahring, a professor and director at the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at WSU.

Ahring's group has already been successful using Aspergillus to produce a range of different products, including enzymes. So they thought, why not fuel?


Some of the challenges to overcome when working with fungi is that the biology is often poorly understood, and the final amount of product at the end of the production is often very small. However, in history, this problem has happened before, and the product was optimized to create the antibiotics we know today.

“It’s very promising,’’ Ahring said. “I think that the fungus-based fuels are something that is going to happen. It’s a tremendous opportunity.’’

[Via Science Direct, WSU Press release]


  • tag
  • biofuel,

  • fungus,

  • jet fuel,

  • Aspergillus carbonarius