Around the world, scientists are working on new kinds of biofuels that could help reduce our reliance on oil- and coal-based energy. The latest development comes out of UCLA's School of Engineering and Applied Science, where a team led by professor James Liao has come up with a way to convert E. coli bacterium into alcohol for biofuel.
The team's innovation involves synthesizing alcohol from E. coli which contains up to eight carbon atoms , three more than could normally be achieved in nature. This produces "longer-chain alcohol", which in turn packs a greater amount of energy into the resulting biofuel. Ethanol, by way of comparison, has just two carbon atoms, making it much less efficient.
As reported on PysOrg.com:
In their research, Liao's team examined the metabolism of amino acids in E. coli and changed the metabolic pathway of the bacterium by inserting two specially coded genes. One gene, from a cheese-making bacterium, and another, from a type of yeast often used in baking and brewing, were altered to enable E. coli's amino acid precursor, keto acid, to continue the chain-elongation process that ultimately resulted in longer-chain alcohols.
You won't be seeing E. coli-based biofuels at your corner gas station any time soon, but the team behind this study says that this could lead to much more efficient fuels, which can, in turn, help fight global warming.