Our editors from the journals with the most clicked articles from last year’s Change the World collection describe what developments have resulted from the findings published in the articles since their publication. Read about the interesting outcomes below!

Sustainable Biofuels: An interview with Ursula Hofer, the Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Microbiology 

The top visited article in 2017:
Fuelling the future: microbial engineering for the production of sustainable biofuels

What were the determining factors for choosing this particular article from the many for this campaign? 

This Review on biofuels provides an excellent overview of current and future approaches that use microorganisms to produce biofuels. Biofuels, as replacement of fossil fuels, address both climate change and diminishing reserves of oil. However, issues such as the use of food crops for biofuel production and toxin and greenhouse gas emmissions as well as costs and technical problems that affect today's biofuels. James Liao and colleagues outline innovative strategies that harness the diversity and versatility of microorganisms to produce biofuels.

Why do you think the findings represented in the article are most relevant to the global issues we face today?

Both climate change and the diminishing reserve of fossil fuels are pressing problems, which will have severe consequences for the global population. We need practical solutions now - sustainable biofuels present one promising approach. Recent technical advances have made engineering microorganisms much easier and efficient, which raises hope for developing microorganisms that can produce biofuel from recalcitrant plants with high yields.

What scientific advances does this article promise to drive? / Who will benefit the most?

This Review outlines three key issues for microbial biofuel production: the substrates that are used, the metabolic pathways involved and the yield and efficiency of production. Engineering microorganisms that can optimally deal with these issues will make biofuel production more sustainable and affordable. We can produce biofuels today but the cost, not only financially but also in resources, poses problems, in particular for developing countries.

What progress or developments have resulted from these findings since the publication of this article?

Since the publication of this Review, new enzymes, metabolic pathways and microorganisms that can be used for biofuel production have been identified. For example, a new microbial enzyme was discovered that enables production of toluene, an important petrochemical, from biomass. Another example is the engineering of algae to produce double the amount of lipids, which can be used for biofuel production, without a growth defect.

What impact do you think that the Springer Nature Change the World campaign can have in addressing the global societal and scientific grand challenges?

The research that we publish can identify problems and provide solutions that are relevant for the grand challenges. As we have a broad audience, we hopefully will raise awareness and reach people who will make a difference.

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Ursula Hofer

EiC of Nature Reviews Microbiology 

nature reviews microbiology

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