Training Microbes To Create Carbon-Neutral Fuel

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Carbon-Neutral Fuel

Producing A Carbon-Neutral Fuel

A team of researchers at the University of Washington have modified a microbe so that it can produce a usable biofuel that can be used in blends with diesel or gasoline. The three ingredients include carbon dioxide, solar panel generated electricity and light.

How Have The Team Produced This Sustainable Fuel?

The biologists and engineers worked together to research and develop this fuel, by modifying a microbe called Rhodopseudomonas palustris TIE-1. As a carbon-neutral fuel alternative, there will be considerably less environmental pollution and impact to our health. These new methods are key to building a more sustainable future, and are a step towards more sustainable solar fuel production. 

Arpita Bose, leader of the project as associate professor of biology, shared the following: 

“Microorganisms have evolved a bewildering array of techniques to obtain nutrients from their surrounding environments,” Bose said. “Perhaps one of the most fascinating of these feeding techniques uses microbial electrosynthesis (MES). Here we have harnessed the power of microbes to convert carbon dioxide into value-added multi-carbon compounds in a usable biofuel.”Science Daily

The Development From Previous Work

Previously, teams have worked to produce a sustainable fuel using cyanobacteria, however these limit efficiency for synthesizing biofuels due to producing oxygen during photosynthesis. 

When creating this new product using TIE-1, the team constructed a mutant of the microbe, introducing an artificial n-butanol biosynthesis pathway. When unable to grow due to nitrogen gas being its only nitrogen source, it streamlined it’s focus on producing n-butanol, which increased its yield of biofuel without increasing electricity consumption significantly. 

“Ultimately, by exploiting a microbial metabolism that evolved in the distant past, we hope that new methods will emerge to help address some of the most pressing problems of our time.” – Arpita Bose

The Importance Of Developing A Sustainable Fuel

The development of alternative fuels is huge for the reduction of C02 emissions. These raise global temperatures, along with trapping solar energy in the atmosphere. As a result, we see an increase in the greenhouse effect; where the earth becomes warmer and changes weather patterns.

With the help of a sustainable fuel alternative, we can greatly decrease the large amounts emitted and help to reduce the rate of global warming.

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