National Institute of Fundamental Studies

Project Description

Invasive weeds and biofilms to produce biofuels

The increased use of fossil fuels has caused greenhouse gas emissions and created undesirable damage to the environment. Biofuels are among the promising transportation green energy sources for the future. Biofuels are classified based upon the substrate used in their production. Invasive weeds are probable raw materials for cellulosic biofuel production. These are non-indigenous or "non-native" plants which adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade economically, environmentally, and ecologically. For industrial scale biofuel production a continuous supply of raw materials should be assured. The fast growing nature of these weeds can provide raw materials in abundance for biofuel industries. There is a possibility of using microbial biofilms as agents of cellulose degradation due to their favourable properties. Advantages of biofilms include concentration of cell-associated hydrolytic enzymes at the biofilm-substrate interface to increase reaction rates and the physiological synergy between fungi and bacteria offers the possibility of completing delignification and saccharification in one piece of biofilm. This research was initiated in 2009 to study the microbial communities such as mixed cultures and fungal-bacterial biofilms in the simultaneous delignification and saccharification of plant substrates in order to subject the hydrolysate into biofuel production.

Improvement of microbial strains and biofilms for ethanol production from cellulosic substrates

Global fossil fuel reserves are limited but the demand for energy continues to grow, resulting in increased fossil fuel prices. In addition, fossil fuel usage results in net increase of atmospheric CO2, causing global warming. Therefore, it is necessary to develop ways to utilize renewable energy sources that are eco-friendly. Biofuels are promising candidates for renewable energy. Lignocellulosic material from plants is a rich source of sugars and is not a cause of food versus fuel concern. However, currently it’s utilization for biofuel production is not economically viable due to several factors. Therefore we will be looking at the microbiological resources that can be utilized to convert lignocelluloses into biofuel.

Research Group

Visiting Research Professor

Prof. S.A. Kulasooriya

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Research Assistant

K. Mohanan

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Achievements of the Project

Postgraduate degrees completed

K.M.D. Gunathilleka, M.Phil, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, 2012

Research grants:

NRC No. 12-031 Rs 5,945,027.00 (59450$)-National Research Council, Sri Lanka “Biofuel and other microbial products from cellulosic biomass”


Support Scheme for supervision of research degrees (SUSRED) 2013

Research Collaboration

Dr. C. L. Abayasekara, Dept. of Botany, University of Peradeniya

- Information provided by the Group Leader -