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Biofuels & Biotechnology - BIO00006H

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  • Department: Biology
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Gavin Thomas
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19

Module aims

The course aims to take a modern view on the biotechnology that is driving forward progress in the development of biofuels. These renewable energy sources have the potential to make a significant contribution to global energy supplies and biotechnology can make major impacts on the economic competitiveness of this industry. We first examine our current dependencies on petrochemicals and how biomass is used to generate energy by combustion. Then we examine the major classes of current biofuels being produced including second generation biofuels like biobutanol and biodiesel. The use of nonfood lignocellulose feedstock is a key component of making biofuels economically and we will take a detailed look at the plant cell wall, both how it is assembled and then degraded by a range of organisms. Fermentation of the released sugars into the major biofuel products will then be considered, first in naturally occurring organisms and then in genetically modified bacteria augmented for both lignocellulose degradation and subsequent fermentation of these products into fuels, a process called consolidated bioprocessing. These later lectures will also include reading and analysis of key selected primary research papers in this area. The module ends with a synoptic view on the future of biofuels within a larger global economic framework.

Module learning outcomes

  • Understand the current dependencies of humanity on petrochemicals and other sources of energy and how biomass currently contributes to this.
  • Recognise the major types of biofuels being used or in development for future use.
  • Appreciate the detailed structure of lignocellulose and how it is degraded by a range of organisms, including animals, fungi and bacteria.
  • Understand the importance of microbial fermentation in the production of biofuels from sugars.
  • Apply synthetic biology methods to biofuel production
  • Critically assess the range of current and potential biofuels on their scientific but also the socioeconomic factors that will influence the longterm viability of biofuels.


Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Biofuels & Biotechnology
2 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Biofuels & Biotechnology
2 hours 100

Module feedback

Feedback on your progress is important to your learning process; Stage 3 and 4 scripts are not returned to you, but you will be given feedback on your January examinations by the middle of the spring term and will also have an opportunity to view the examiners’ comments on your scripts at the end of the spring and summer terms.

Module marks are made available to both you and your supervisor via your eVision account as soon as the marks are available, by week 6 of the spring term and week 8 of the summer term. You are expected to discuss your performance and progress with your supervisor in your mid-spring term and end of summer term supervisory meetings.

A histogram of all module marks is produced and posted on the examinations notice board outside Biology Student Services.

Specimen answers are posted on the web: by comparing the specimen answers with your own, you should obtain a clear idea of what was expected of you. For each module the markers will also give general feedback on how well the questions were answered and point out any standard errors that students may have made.

Indicative reading

These are available through the VLE module site.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students