Researcher Gary Strobel discovered that cultures of the fungus Gliocladium roseum produce hydrocarbons. Growing it under different conditions produces different amounts and types of diesel fuel components.

Photo courtesy of Gary Strobel, Montana State University

A wild fungus has been found to produce a variety of hydrocarbon components of diesel fuel, according to a report by the National Science Foundation ( Gary Strobel of Montana State University discovered that the harmless, microscopic fungus, known as Gliocladium roseum (NRRL 50073), produces many energy-rich hydrocarbons, and that the particular diesel components produced can be varied by changing the growing medium and environment of the fungus. The fungus even performs under low-oxygen conditions, like those found deep underground.

The NSF reports Strobel”s discovery suggests that fungi living in ancient plants may have contributed to the natural formation of crude oil, a slow process that occurs when organic matter is subjected to high pressure and heat under layers of rock. Strobel says he envisions these fungi, or their genetic material, being used in the future to purposefully manufacture hydrocarbons for fuel. 

Before that can happen, however, researchers must figure out how to increase hydrocarbon yields from the fungus and find ways to supply the remaining hydrocarbon components needed for complete diesel fuel. As such, the NSF reports Strobel is now checking other strains of Gliocladium roseum for hydrocarbon production. The strain originally isolated from the tree produced annulene, a component of rocket fuel.

Strobel”s research appears in the November 2008 issue of Microbiology.

For more information on Strobel and his research, click here.