Self-destructing bacterial minions could usher in new era of biofuels

December 9, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Dailytech] – Bacteria and algae have been engineered to produce hydrogen, ethanol, or, better yet, rich hydrocarbon chains.  These chains pave the way for plentiful carbon-neutral gasoline, using nature to fix the sun’s energy in the easy to store form we know as gasoline (or diesel).  The promising process is hindered, however, by the expense and difficulty in harvest the hydrocarbon chains from the mature cells.

Researchers at Arizona State University were working on optimizing photosynthetic microbes, called cyanobacteria, commonly found in pond scum.  The bacteria proved an ideal candidate as they are easy to manipulate genetically and could in theory produce more biofuel than any traditional crop.  However, the resiliency of the bacteria proved an unpleasant and expensive obstacle to harvest.  The “multi-layer, burrito-like, protective set of outer membranes” covering the cell necessitated expensive removal processing.

For more information: Self-Destructing Bacterial Minions Could Usher in New Era of Biofuels