E. Coli & Biofuel

While I don’t think that this will ever be a focus on this blog, the topic has come up so I want to examine some of the various technologies that are emerging to change our future. Most of the posts that will be coming out will do with energy as it is so important. So without further ado, I give you biodiesel making E. Coli!

One problem is that oil from plants must first be chemically transformed. To purify ethanol, for example, it must be distilled from a fermentation broth.

But biologists 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.”

This is pretty cool and simple solution to some of our energy problems as well as working to resolve the problem of waste. Harnessing nature, either by mimicking it (biomimetics) or by using nature as is or just slightly altered, is an awesome way to solve the problems we face today.


3 Responses to “E. Coli & Biofuel”

  1. March 5, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    Engineered superbugs that humanity has no natural resistance to. What could go wrong?

  2. March 5, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    Yeah, I was thinking about adding a line to the affect that I hope this doesn’t turn out like the whole killer bee thing in the 50s, but figured that would derail the whole post. (o=

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