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article imageA fragrant new bio-fuel?

By Tim Sandle     Mar 16, 2012 in Science
The search for new bio-fuels represents potential big business with the decline in available fossil fuels. A team of scientists, backed by the US government, have made significant progress in using bacteria to create a bio-diesel from glucose.
Bio-fuels are either derived from plants or from agricultural waste or bio-fuels are synthesised through microbes that digest the biomass and convert its sugars into fuel molecules. With the projected decline of fossil fuels, the search for cheap and quick to produce bio-fuels continues to apace within industry and at university laboratories.
EcoFriend reports that a team of scientists believe that they have made considerable progress with methyl ketone derived bio-fuels, made from sugar and genetically modified bacteria.
Chemicals called methyl ketones are naturally occurring compounds common in tomatoes and other plants. Methyl ketones are used to provide scents in essential oils and flavoring in cheese and other dairy products.
Methyl ketones can also be manufactured from bacteria like E. coli. It is from this bacteria that researchers are looking at ways to manufacture a new class of bio-fuel. The researchers, based at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), have used glucose and a genetically modified E. coli bacterium to manufacture a methyl ketone bio-fuel which has a high cetane rating (a measurement of the combustion quality of diesel fuel, similar to the octane rating used to classify gasoline). The bacteria was genetically modified so that it contained special enzymes which allowed it create a diesel bio-fuel.
Harry Beller, a JBEI microbiologist who led this study, is quoted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as saying:
“Our findings add to the list of naturally occurring chemical compounds that could serve as bio-fuels, which means more flexibility and options for the bio-fuels industry. We’re especially encouraged by our finding that it is possible to increase the methyl ketone titer production of E. coli more than 4,000-fold with a relatively small number of genetic modifications.”
The research was published in the following journal:
E.-B. Goh, E. E. K. Baidoo, J. D. Keasling, H. R. Beller. Engineering of Bacterial Methyl Ketone Synthesis for Bio-fuels. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2011; 78 (1): 70
Bio-diesels are the fastest growing class of bio-fuels and it is being produced at increasing rates across the U.S. from primarily soy-bean oil, but also canola, peanut, sunflower, mustard and even algae.
More about Biofuel, biodisiel, Bacteria, Glucose, Gasoline
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