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Advance Toward Producing Biofuels Without Stressing Global Food Supply

Date:
May 13, 2009
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Scientists are reporting use of a first-of-its-kind approach to craft genetically engineered microbes with the much-sought ability to transform switchgrass, corn cobs, and other organic materials into methyl halides -- the raw material for making gasoline and a host of other commercially important products. The new bioprocess could help pave the way for producing biofuels from agricultural waste, easing concerns about stress on the global food supply from using corn and other food crops. 

Scientists in California are reporting use of a first-of-its-kind approach to craft genetically engineered microbes with the much-sought ability to transform switchgrass, corn cobs, and other organic materials into methyl halides — the raw material for making gasoline and a host of other commercially important products. The new bioprocess could help pave the way for producing biofuels from agricultural waste, easing concerns about stress on the global food supply from using corn and other food crops. 

Christopher Voigt and colleagues note in the new study that using crop waste to produce methyl halides is one of the most attractive ways of transforming biomass into liquid fuels and chemical raw materials now derived from petroleum. Plants and microbes produce methyl halides naturally, but in amounts too small for commercial use.

Using a database of 89 genes from plants, fungi, and bacteria known to produce methyl halides, the researchers identified genes that were the most likely to produce the highest levels of these substances. The scientists then spliced these genes into Brewer's yeast — used to make beer and wine — so that the yeast cells churned out methyl halides instead of alcohol. In laboratory studies, the two engineered microbes helped boost methyl halide production from switchgrass, corn cob husks, sugar cane waste, and poplar wood to levels with commercial potential.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bayer et al. Synthesis of Methyl Halides from Biomass Using Engineered Microbes. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2009; 131 (18): 6508 DOI: 10.1021/ja809461u

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Advance Toward Producing Biofuels Without Stressing Global Food Supply." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511115003.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2009, May 13). Advance Toward Producing Biofuels Without Stressing Global Food Supply. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511115003.htm
American Chemical Society. "Advance Toward Producing Biofuels Without Stressing Global Food Supply." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511115003.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

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