Engineered Bacteria Could Make High-Octane Biofuels, Replace Gasoline
June 26, 2013 1:43 PM
comment(s) - last by
E. coli was used to make fatty acids of the correct length
A biofuel that acts similar to gasoline minus the carbon dioxide seems like an ideal solution to staying green, keeping current vehicles relevant and the dwindling oil supply -- and researchers may have found the first steps toward that direction.
Harvard University researchers -- led by Pamela Silver, Ph.D., a Wyss Institute Core Faculty member and Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School -- have
to make precursors of high-octane biofuels to potentially replace gasoline.
The problem with gasoline is that its oil supply is running low, and gives off large amounts of carbon dioxide. But gasoline isn't all bad -- it can produce a lot of energy when burned in an internal combustion engine, and it stays in a liquid form no matter the temperature.
This is where many of
go wrong. They nix the carbon dioxide, but can't produce the power that gas can in an internal combustion engine. In fact, they produce only two-thirds of the energy gasoline can. Also, ethanol-packed fuels can corrode pipes and tanks normally used for gasoline. Between these two reasons, biofuel use would make a majority of today's vehicles (with internal combustion engines) irrelevant.
That's where Harvard's new study comes in. Using
to make fatty acids, which are gasoline precursors, the team ended up with energetic molecules of carbon and hydrogen atoms. These chains were about 4-12 carbons long, because anything shorter wouldn't pack enough energy for fuels and anything longer would be "waxy." Oil refineries make medium-length chains too, but use petroleum while this study used living organisms.
The team then adjusted a metabolic pathway for
that creates fatty acids. The pathway allows carbon from sugar to flow, and as it flows, it grows longer. It eventually leaves as a long-chain fatty acid. They then genetically altered an enzyme that typically allows for long-chain fatty acids so that it would only allow eight-carbon chains.
They also tried blocking the flow of carbons using a drug that blocks certain enzymes, which are responsible for extending fatty acid chains. This caused medium-length chains (which the team wanted) to pool up behind the barrier. But some of the carbons could still pass by to build membranes.
In the end, the team mass-produced an eight-carbon fatty acid called octanoate. This can be converted into octane.
This study was published in
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
6/27/2013 4:21:17 AM
Get some gasoline, stick it into an open tray and leave it outside for a few hours.
Come back and tell me how much is left.
Gasoline is a liquid because it is easily contained, which means the partial pressure of gasoline vapour can reach saturation point in the container ullage quite quickly, preventing further evaporation. Without that restricted ullage, it would continue to evaporate until there would be no liquid left (or the partial pressure of fuel vapour in the entire atmosphere reached saturation point...).
“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
Researchers Use Bacteria to Turn Waste Oil to Bioplastics
September 3, 2012, 3:01 PM
Bacteria Breaks Down Oil, Cleans Gulf of Mexico
August 26, 2010, 4:01 PM
Commercial Drones to Get Privacy Guidelines Via Executive Order
July 25, 2014, 5:34 PM
Pentagon's Priciest Project, F-35, Misses International Debut
July 25, 2014, 10:18 AM
Temple University Researchers Hit the Delete Button on HIV, Remove it from Human Cells
July 22, 2014, 7:39 AM
Airbus Shows Off All-Electric E-Fan 2.0 Airplane, Plans Production in 2017
July 21, 2014, 9:29 AM
Buzz Aldrin Says First Astronauts to Set Foot on Mars Should Never Return Home
July 9, 2014, 9:46 AM
Women May Soon Be Able to Control Their Fertility via Remote Control
July 7, 2014, 10:14 AM
Most Popular Articles
Ford Details ’15 F-150’s 325hp, 2.7L EcoBoost V6; Demonstrates 732-lb Weight Loss
July 22, 2014, 6:55 PM
Comcast Memo: Harassing Customers During Retention Calls Actually IS Our Policy
July 22, 2014, 5:19 PM
Kindle Fire Phone Review Roundup -- A Solid "Meh"
July 23, 2014, 2:09 PM
Windows 9 Will Merge Windows, Windows Phone, Windows RT in 2015
July 23, 2014, 3:33 PM
Russia Looks to Counter U.S. Sanctions With Bill Targeting American Tech Firms
July 22, 2014, 3:49 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
Tesla vs. BMW: Who Has the Safer EV?
Feb 1, 2014, 2:56 PM
Justice Leaks Details of Next HTC One Two Flagship Phone
Dec 5, 2013, 4:04 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information