Scientists at the University of Bath have been awarded a £4million grant to develop a commercial alternative to palm oil.
Palm oil is used in a wide range of food and cosmetics, but it's been blamed for the loss of tropical rain forest.
Academics are looking at ways to produce oil from yeast, derived from home-grown ingredients like straw and seaweed.
Dr Chris Chuck from the University of Bath is lead researcher and says this is "an exciting opportunity".
The Bath research team, which includes experts from the University’s Departments of Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Biology & Biochemistry, has teamed up with the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York.
The head of Bath University’s Department of Chemical Engineering Dr Tim Mays says the work carried out by the team will have a "significant positive impact" in sustainable energy.
What is Palm Oil?
- Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil, high in saturated fats, derived from the fruit of oil palms, mostly the species Elaeis guineensis. Approximately 60m tonnes of palm oil are produced each year globally with over 40m tonnes exported to more than 70 countries worldwide.
What is it used for?
- Due to relatively low production costs linked to its high melting point and high levels of saturated fat, palm oil is an important source of biofuels, a common ingredient in food such as cakes, biscuits and instant noodles and in cosmetic products ranging from lipstick to shampoo.
Why do we need an alternative?
- The high demand for products containing palm oil has caused the rapid expansion of palm plantations in South East Asia. This has been linked to widespread and severe deforestation, water pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions and heavy smog pollution across South East Asia.