Engineered bacteria make fuel from sunlight
Chemists at the University of California, Davis, have engineered blue-green algae to grow chemical precursors for fuels and plastics -- the first step in replacing fossil fuels as raw materials for the chemical industry. "Most chemical feedstocks come from petroleum and natural gas, and we need other sources," said Shota Atsumi, assistant professor of chemistry at UC Davis and lead author on the study published Jan. 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal of obtaining a quarter of industrial chemicals from biological processes by 2025.
Biological reactions are good at forming carbon-carbon bonds, using carbon dioxide as a raw material for reactions powered by sunlight. It's called photosynthesis, and cyanobacteria, also known as "blue-green algae," have been doing it for more than 3 billion years.
Using cyanobacteria to grow chemicals has other advantages: they do not compete with food needs, like corn's role in the creation of ethanol.
The challenge is to get the cyanobacteria to make significant amounts of chemicals that can be readily converted to chemical feedstocks. With support from Japanese chemical manufacturer Asahi Kasei Corp., Atsumi's lab at UC Davis has been working on introducing new chemical pathways into the cyanobacteria.
The researchers identified enzymes from online databases that carried out the reactions they were looking for, and then introduced the DNA for these enzymes into the cells. Working a step at a time, they built up a three-step pathway that allows the cyanobacteria to convert carbon dioxide into 2,3 butanediol, a chemical that can be used to make paint, solvents, plastics and fuels.
Because enzymes may work differently in different organisms, it is nearly impossible to predict how well the pathway will work before testing it in an experiment, Atsumi said.
After three weeks growth, the cyanobacteria yielded 2.4 grams of 2,3 butanediol per liter of growth medium -- the highest productivity yet achieved for chemicals grown by cyanobacteria and with potential for commercial development, Atsumi said.
Atsumi hopes to tune the system to increase productivity further and experiment with other products, while corporate partners explore scaling up the technology.
Coauthors on the paper are graduate student John Oliver, postdoctoral researcher Iara Machado sand Hisanari Yoneda, a visiting researcher from Asahi Kasei Corp.
Source: University of California - Davis
- Engineering Alternative Fuel with Cyanobacteriafrom Newswise - ScinewsWed, 9 Jan 2013, 16:31:20 EST
- Engineered algae seen as fuel sourcefrom UPITue, 8 Jan 2013, 19:00:44 EST
- Engineered bacteria make fuel from sunlightfrom Biology News NetMon, 7 Jan 2013, 19:00:42 EST
- Engineered bacteria make fuel from sunlightfrom Science DailyMon, 7 Jan 2013, 17:31:04 EST
- Engineered bacteria make fuel from sunlightfrom Science BlogMon, 7 Jan 2013, 17:00:23 EST
- Engineered bacteria make fuel from sunlightfrom PhysorgMon, 7 Jan 2013, 16:30:54 EST
- Engineering alternative fuel with cyanobacteriafrom PhysorgMon, 7 Jan 2013, 13:01:19 EST
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Duration of adulthood overweight and obesity linked to cancer risk in US women
- New theory could lead to new generation of energy friendly optoelectronics
- Sick animals limit disease transmission by isolating themselves from their peers
- 'Artificial atom' created in graphene
- NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP Satellite sees two Tropical Cyclones near Japan
- Syracuse University researchers confirm marine animals live longer at high latitudes
- Caught in the act: First videos of a coral's bleaching behavior
- Discovery of a unique subcellular structure determining the orientation of cell division
- 'Chemtrails' not real, say leading atmospheric science experts
- Black and Hispanic children and youth rarely get help for mental health problems