Second generation biofuels using thermophilic bacteria

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 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. Framleiðsla á vetni með loftfirrtum hitakærum bakteríum. Natturufræðingurinn, 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. Framleiðsla á etanóli úr flóknum lífmassa með hitakærum bakteríum. Náttúrufræðingurinn. 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.