Friday, January 29, 2010

Waste to Fuel? Bacteria engineered to eat Junk and Crap Fuel (and Sugar!)

Just infect your garbage and the fuel rises to the top!
Yahoo News - "(B)iologists in the United States say they have invented a genetically-engineered version of a humble bacterium called Escherichia coli that could provide a cheaper, more effective alternative.

It feasts on the simple sugars found in wood chips, straw and other biomass waste and secretes molecules of fuel.

'We incorporated genes that enabled production of biodiesel directly,' lead author Jay Keasling of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California said in an email to AFP.

'The engineered E. coli secretes the biodiesel from the cell, which means that we don't need to break open the cell to get the diesel out. This saves substantially on processing cost,' Keasling explained.

In addition, 'the biodiesel is insoluble in water, which means that it forms a separate phase when it is secreted from the engineered E. coli -- it floats to the top as any oil would. This also saves on processing costs.'

The study, published in the British science journal Nature, is a 'proof-of-concept' piece of research.

It did not detail any potential environmental impacts or estimates of costs.

Keasling, though, said the findings were significant enough to warrant commercial products within one or two years, provided further increases on yield are met.

The researchers further engineered E. coli to secrete enzymes that would degrade hemicellulose -- an important component of cellulosic biomass -- into its component sugars.

'The importance of this development is that the organism can produce the fuel from a very inexpensive sugar supply,' said Keasling.

More than 7.6 billion litres (two billion gallons) of biofuels were consumed worldwide last year, and demand continues to increase."
And Tastes Good Too!

When do they start? It seems as if they are saying you can throw your refuse into a pond, seed it with these little monsters and skim diesel off the top.

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jay c said...

But what happens if they get loose? Will they create toxic pools of bio-diesel everywhere?

The Pharisee said...

We'll just all have to drive Monster Trucks......