Better Biofuels from E.coli

Once again common bacteria may prove in the future they are more useful than previously thought. If the bacteria saving planet scenario seems as if depicted from the science fiction literature, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles have recently made a discovery that could prove to be historic for the car industry. It seems that a genetically modified common bacteria E.coli, which has been recently developed, can lead to a new type of biofuel.

The new method can be used for the mass production of these biofuels. The discovery is much more than welcomed since mankind is facing severe environmental problems.The strategy was developed by UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, James Liao who managed to synthesize biofuels from renewable resources.

Since existing biofuels, like ethanol, have their limitations (for instance, ethanol is not as efficient as gasoline and must be mixed with gas for use as a transportation fuel), the efficiency of E.Coli in producing biofuels is much more than promising.

"The ability to make these branched-chain higher alcohols so efficiently is surprising" Liao said. It appears that organisms are not used to producing this type of alcohols. What's more surprising is the fact that they can be made by E. coli since this kind of bacteria is not a promising host to tolerate alcohols. Therefore, the results prove that these unusual alcohols can be manufactured in fact as efficiently as what evolved in nature for ethanol.

“We now can explore these unusual alcohols as biofuels and are not bound by what nature has given us," Liao added.

All scientists have to do is to engineer a new metabolic pathway in the micro organisms by inserting chromosomes in the bacteria’s DNA. Unlike ethanol, these alcohols are less likely to corrode engine interiors because they can be separated easily from water.
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