Thursday, May 29, 2008

Biofuels made from bacteria a great advance in alternative energy

This whole year a lot of research and discoveries where done in the field of bacteria-based biofuels. This form of producing biofuels present and advantage since bacteria grow faster that common crops and it can be continuously harvest, plus it contains a higher concentration of fat that can be burned to energy.

At the end of the year 2007, researchers from Finland, Iceland and Taiwan published a paper: “Bioprospecting Thermophilic Microorganisms from Icelandic Hot Springs for Hydrogen and Ethanol Production” where they explain about their scientific exploration of the hot springs in Iceland. In this exploration they identified bacteria that can be candidates to be used as biofuels since they hold potential for producing hydrogen an ethanol fuels from wastewater.

Later on, at the beginning of this year, researchers at the UCLA discovered that by modifying the E. Coli bacteria they could start producing biofuels. The following text was published by the ScienceDaily:
“The research team modified key pathways in E. coli to produce several higher-chain alcohols from glucose, a renewable carbon source, including isobutanol, 1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol.
This strategy leverages the E. coli host's highly active amino acid biosynthetic pathway by shifting part of it to alcohol production. In particular, the research team achieved high-yield, high-specificity production of isobutanol from glucose.
This new strategy opens an unexplored frontier for biofuels production, both in coli and in other microorganisms.”
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At the end of April researchers at the University of Texas at Austin developed a microbe that secrete glucose and cellulose, and that can be turned into ethanol and other biofuels. The name of this microbe is: cynobacterieum or blue-green algae. Researchers at the UT at Austin think these bacteria could have a great potential:
"The cyanobacterium is potentially a very inexpensive source for sugars to use for ethanol and designer fuels," says Nobles, a research associate in the Section of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. "The huge expense in making cellulosic ethanol and biofuels is in using enzymes and mechanical methods to break cellulose down. Using the cyanobacteria escapes these expensive processes."

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Finally Arizona State University, BP Energy and Science Foundation of Arizona are currently building “photobioreactors” to grow the cynobacteria. With this research they hope they can prove that bacteria can be raised on commercial scale. The Science Daily published the following:
“Instead of needing fertilizer, which is costly and requires energy to produce, researchers hope to feed the bacteria the carbon dioxide released from electric power plants.
That is an increasingly popular idea in the energy industry, where carbon-dioxide emissions are getting increased scrutiny for their contribution to global climate change.”

These discoveries could lead to mass production of biofuels, since both bacteria algae have high energy potential, require little space to grow and can thrive in marginal water.

These investigations have become a competition between enterprises-universities researchers since having an exclusive license of these technologies could implicate a huge competitive advantage to the company that discovers it. This will be the key to produce a renewable resource-based fuel and address the issues of climate change and future energy needs.
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