backtop


Print 30 comment(s) - last by rburnham.. on Feb 1 at 3:15 PM


LS9 and DOE researchers have modified the start-ups biofuel bacteria to produce many new compounds and to also be able to digest cellulose, found in plant waste.  (Source: University of Saskatchewan)

Bacterial or algae based biofuels could one day offer inexpensive fuel for land, air, and sea transportation needs -- no batteries or fuel cells required.  (Source: Dupont)
DOE has paired with LS9 to tweak and improve the company's genetic engineered design

The bacteria Escherichia coli is a very well studied organism and an ideal starting point for genetic engineering a microorganism to accomplish something useful.  Unsurprisingly, San Francisco, California-based biofuel startup LS9 chose the microorganism as the starting point for their biofuel push.  The E. Coli microbe, commonly found in feces, was modified by the startup to contain new enzymatic pathways that converted part of the microbe's sugary diet into hydrocarbon chains (biodiesel), which were then excreted.

Now the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute has paired with LS9 to tweak the microbe and further improve and validate the company's approach.  Despite the enormous potential, the technology is still in its nascent stages.  Describes Eric Steen, a researcher with JBEI’s Fuels Synthesis Division states, "There is still much more research to do before this process becomes commercially feasible."

To help improve the bacteria's prospects, the JBEI researchers -- Jay Keasling, the Chief Executive Officer for JBEI; Mr. Steen; Yisheng Kang; and Gregory Bokinsky -- threw their genetic toolkit at the bacteria, adding a host of novel pathways to produce additional structurally tailored fatty esters (biodiesel), alcohols and waxes directly from glucose.

With a greater array of products secured, the researchers next focused on converting sugars other than glucose.  To accomplish this the researchers added hemicellulases, special enzymes that digest the tough cellulose polysaccharides that typically go to waste. 

Writes Steen, "Engineering E. coli to produce hemicellulases enables the microbes to produce fuels directly from the biomass of plants that are not used as food for humans or feed for animals. Currently, biochemical processing of cellulosic biomass requires costly enzymes for sugar liberation. By giving the E. coli the capacity to ferment both cellulose and hemicellulose without the addition of expensive enzymes, we can improve the economics of cellulosic biofuels."

The results were published in the January 28, 2010 edition of the prestigious Nature journal.

Continuing ahead the researchers see much work to be done.  Foremost among the objectives are maximizing the speed and efficiency at which the microbes process the biofuels.

Some will certain question whether it's worth it for the government and private sector to be pouring so much money into funding biofuels research.  However, they must consider that biologically produced biofuels are unarguably one of the strongest and most promising cornerstones of energy research.  After all, the modern global industrial economy was built on the backbone of naturally fixed solar energy in the form of hydrocarbons (oil, coal, and natural gas), and being able to replenish these stocks in a cheap carbon neutral manner could solve mankind's energy problems in the short term -- and that could be enormously lucrative and beneficial.



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Alright!
By sigmatau on 1/28/2010 6:21:31 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
This is the direction we should be going. Looking to replace oil with grown oil. If you have to grow plants to produce fuel, then when its burned it is emissions nuetral since everything being put into the air, came from the air.


What? I think you need to lay off the "sciency" stuff you learn. How is it emissions neutral.....not even sure why I am bothering but that just floored me. Growing something and then burning it does not make it neutral. We will never "grow" all or even close to all of our oil. The public will not allow for our food prices to go up because either food is being used to produce oil, or less land is available for food because it is used to grow a crop to turn it into oil. No way this will happen.

GM has been selling ethonal capable cars/trucks in the millions for years, yet you don't see people rushing to replace their gas with it. GM did this, btw, to boost their fleet's fuel economy as a e85 vechicle is nearly double calculated if it is modified (100 bucks or so) to use E85. Not bad, spend $100 and almost "double" the fuel economy of a vehicle in the government's eyes.

Any fuel other than something that is made of food or grown on farm land will never take off. I love v8 my self and my next car will have one, but come on people! Oil is dying and we need something else fast.


RE: Alright!
By porkpie on 1/28/2010 9:43:32 PM , Rating: 2
" Growing something and then burning it does not make it neutral. "

Lol, of course it does. If you doubt it, try this simple experiment. Earn $5, then go and spend it. Then figure out how much you're ahead.

"GM has been selling ethonal capable cars/trucks in the millions for years, yet you don't see people rushing to replace their gas with it"

Because corn-based ethanol is essentially a scam, nothing but a way to turn corn into votes in the Iowa primaries. Growing oil right from gene-tailored bacteria, now, that could be several times more efficient, and actually make for a fuel cheaper than gas from natural petroleum.

"come on people! Oil is dying and we need something else fast. "

Funny people told me the same thing in 1975, but here we are today with oil reserves bigger than we had back then.


"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki