Valmynd Leit

Second generation biofuels using thermophilic bacteria

Thermophilic bacteria

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About the project

The focus of our research for the past ten years has been on the production of second-generation biofuel for lignocellulosic biomass using thermophilic bacteria isolated from Icelandic hot springs. Lately, our interest has spread to the utalization of macroalgae for the biological production of biofuels and high-value chemical buildings blocks. There is an increased interest in using thermophilic bacteria for the production of bioethanol from complex lignocellulosic biomass due to their higher operating temperatures and broad substrate range. This project focuses upon the production of biofuels (ethanol, hydrogen and methane) with the use of thermophilic bacteria isolated from Icelandic hot springs and deposited from various culture collections. The main genera of ethanol producing anaerobes are Thermoanaerobacterium, Thermoanaerobacter and Caloramator whereas the best hydrogen producers belong the the genera of the extremophiles Caldicellulosiruptor and Thermotoga. Specific focus in the project is firstly to maximize the biofuel yields by manipulating various culture conditions (partial pressure of hydrogen, initial substrate conditions, pH, temperature, inhibitory compounds) as well as production of ethanol from various types of lignocellulosic biomass (grass, hemp, straw, cellulose, paper).


Jóhann Örlygsson, Professor, School of Business and Science, University of Akureyri, Iceland
Sean Michael Scully, Adjunct/PhD student, School of Business and Science, University of Akureyri, Iceland
Maria Ingvadottir


Matis, Iceland
Sorpa - Solid Waste Management in Iceland’s Capital Area, Iceland
Mannvit - Complete engineering services, Iceland
The Agricultural University, Iceland 
The Innovations Center, Iceland
University of Lund, Sweden

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  • Örlygsson J, Scully, S.M. 2017. Framleiđsla á vetni međ loftfirrtum hitakćrum bakteríum. Natturufrćđingurinn, in press
  • Vipotnik Z, Jessen JE, Scully SM, Orlygsson J. 2016. Effect of culture condition on hydrogen production by Thermoanaerobacter AK68. Int. J. Hydrogen Energy. 41, 181-189.
  • Scully SM,      Orlygsson J. 2015. Recent      advances in second generation ethanol production by thermophilic bacteria.      Energies 8, 1-30.
  • Jessen, J.E., Sveinsson,      T, Scully, S.M., Orlygsson, J. 2015.      Ethanol production capacity of a Paenibacillus      species isolated from Icelandic hot spring – production yields from      complex biomass. Icelandic      Agricultural Science. 28, 15-24.
  • Orlygsson J. Framleiđsla á etanóli úr flóknum      lífmassa međ hitakćrum bakteríum. Náttúrufrćđingurinn. 83, 83-86.
  • Brynjarsdottir      H, Scully MS & Orlygsson J. 2013.      Production of biohydrogen from      sugars and lignocellulosic biomass using Thermoanaerobacter GHL(15). International Journal of Hydrogen,      38, 14467-14475.
  • Orlygsson      J. 2012. Ethanol production      from biomass by a moderate thermophile, Clostridium AK1. Icelandic Agricultural Sciences. 25, 25-35.
  • Jessen      JE & Orlygsson J. 2012.      Production of ethanol from sugars and lignocellulosic biomass by Thermoanaerobacter J1 isolated from      a hot spring in Iceland. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. Doi:10.1155/2012/186982
  • Brynjarsdottir      H, Wawiernia B & Orlygsson J. 2012.      Ethanol production from sugars      and complex biomass by Thermoanaerobacter      AK5: The effect of electron-scavenging systems on end-product formation.      Energy and Fuels, 7, 4568-4574
  • Sigurbjornsdottir MA & Orlygsson J. 2012. Combined hydrogen and      ethanol production from sugars and lignocellulosic biomass by Thermoanaerobacterium AK54,      isolated from hot spring. Applied Energy, 97, 785-791
  • Almarsdottir AR,      Sigurbjornsdottir MA & Orlygsson J. 2012. Effects of various factors on ethanol yields from      lignocellulosic biomass by Thermoanaerobacterium      AK17. Biotechnology & Bioengineering, 109,      686-694.
  • Örlygsson J,      Sigurbjornsdottir MA & Bakken HE. 2010.      Bioprospecting of thermophilic ethanol and hydrogen producing bacteria from Icelandic geothermal areas. Icelandic Agricultural Sciences. 23:      73-85
  • Almarsdóttir, AR,      Gunnarsson, IB, Tarazewicz & Örlygsson J. 2010. Hydrogen production by moderate thermophilic Clostridium bacterium, strain AK14      from sugars and lignocellulosic biomass. Icelandic Agricultural Sciences.      23: 61-75.
  • Sveinsdóttir      M, Baldursson SRB & Örlygsson. 2009.      Ethanol production from monosugars and lignocellulosic biomass by      thermophilic bacteria isolated from Icelandic hot springs. Icelandic      Agricultural Sciences. 22, 45-58.
  • Koskinen      PEP, Lay C-H, Puhakka JA, Lin P-J, Wu S-H, Örlygsson J, Lin C-Y. 2008. High      Efficiency Hydrogen Production by an Anaerobic, Thermophilic Enrichment      Culture From Icelandic Hot Springs. Biotechnology & Bioengineering.      101, 665-678
  • Koskinen      PEP, Beck SR, Örlygsson J, Puhakka JA. 2008. Ethanol and Hydrogen      Production by Two Thermophilic Anaerobic Bacteria Isolated From Icelandic      Geothermal Areas. Biotechnology & Bioengineering. 101, 679-690
  • Koskinen      PEP, Lay C-H, Beck SR, Tolvanen K, Kaksonen AH, Örlygsson J, Lin C-Y &      Puhakka JA. 2008.      Bioprospecting Thermophilic Microorgansims from Icelandic Hot Springs for      H2 and Ethanol Production. Energy & Fuels. 22, 134-140
  • Örlygsson      J & Beck SR. 2007.      Phylogenetic and Physiological studies of four hydrogen producing      anaerobes from Icelandic geothermal areas. Icelandic Agricultural      Sciences. 20: 93-105.

Book chapters:

  • Scully SM &      Orlygsson. Biological production of alcohols. In: Handbook of      Biotechnology for Renewable Fuels: Technology Assessment, Emergin      Industrial Applications, and Future Outlooks. Ed: Hosseini M. Elsvier. To      be published in 2017.
  • Scully SM & Orlygsson J. Recent      advances in genetic engineering of thermophilic ethanol producing      bacteria. In: Engineering of microorganisms for the production of chemicals and      fuels from renewable resources. Ed: Gosset G. Springer. To be published in 2017.     Is already published.. find
  • Orlygsson J & Scully      SM. Conversion      of Lignocellulosic Feedstocks into Bioethanol using Extremophiles. Published in Extremophilic Microbial      and Enzymatic Processing of Lignocellulosic Feedstocks to Biofuels,      Value-Added Products, and Usable Power. Ed: Sani RK. Springer, to be published      in 2016-17.
  • Orlygsson J & Kristjansson JK. 2014. Family      Hydrogenophilae. In: The Prokaryotes. – Alphaproteobacteria and      Betaproteobacteria.
  • Sveinsdottir M,      Sigurbjornsdottir MA & Orlygsson J. 2011. Ethanol and hydrogen production with thermophilic      bacteria from sugars and complex biomass. In: Remote Sensing of Biomass: Principles and      Applications / Book 3", ISBN 978-953-307-491-7.

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School of Business and Science

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University of Akureyri

Nordurslod 2         600 Akureyri, Iceland         S. + 354 460 8000 

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