Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Making fuel from bacteria

Date:
March 13, 2013
Source:
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology
Summary:
In the search for the fuels of tomorrow, Swedish researchers are finding inspiration in the sea. Not in offshore oil wells, but in the water where blue-green algae thrive.

Paul Hudson, a researcher at the School of Biotechnology at KTH, shows the algae used to make fuel.
Credit: Image courtesy of KTH The Royal Institute of Technology

In the search for the fuels of tomorrow, Swedish researchers are finding inspiration in the sea. Not in offshore oil wells, but in the water where blue-green algae thrive.

Related Articles


The building blocks of blue-green algae – sunlight, carbon dioxide and bacteria – are being used by researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm to produce butanol, a hydrocarbon-like fuel for motor vehicles.

The advantage of butanol is that the raw materials are abundant and renewable, and production has the potential to be 20 times more efficient than making ethanol from corn and sugar cane.

Using genetically-modified cyanobacteria, the team linked butanol production to the algae’s natural metabolism, says Paul Hudson, a researcher at the School of Biotechnology at KTH who leads the research. “With relevant genes integrated in the right place in cyanobacteria’s genome, we have tricked the cells to produce butanol instead of fulfilling their normal function,” he says.

The team demonstrated that it can control butanol production by changing the conditions in the surrounding environment. This opens up other opportunities for control, such as producing butanol during specific times of day, Hudson says.

Hudson says that it could be a decade before production of biofuel from cyanobacteria is a commercial reality. 

“We are very excited that we are now able to produce biofuel from cyanobacteria. At the same time we must remember that the manufacturing process is very different from today's biofuels,” he says. “We need to improve the production hundredfold before it becomes commercially viable.

Already, there is a demonstrator facility in New Mexico, U.S. for producing biodiesel from algae, which is a more advanced process, Hudson says.

One of Sweden's leading biotechnology researchers, Professor Mathias Uhlιn at KTH, has overall responsibility for the project. He says that the use of engineering methods to build genomes of microorganisms is a relatively new area. A bacterium that produces cheap fuel by sunlight and carbon dioxide could change the world.

Hudson agrees. “One of the problems with biofuels we have today, that is, corn ethanol, is that the price of corn rises slowly while jumping up and down all the time and it is quite unpredictable,” he says. “In addition, there is limited arable land and corn ethanol production is also influenced by the price of oil, since corn requires transport. 

“Fuel based on cyanobacteria requires very little ground space to be prepared. And the availability of raw materials - sunlight, carbon dioxide and seawater - is in principle infinite,” Hudson says.

He adds that some cyanobacteria also able to extract nitrogen from the air and thus do not need any fertilizer.

The next step in the research is to ensure that cyanobacteria produce butanol in larger quantities without it dying of exhaustion or butanol, which they cannot withstand particularly well. After that, more genes will have to be modified so that the end product becomes longer hydrocarbons that can fully function as a substitute for gasoline. And finally, the process must be executed outside of the lab and scaled up to work in industry.

There are also plans to develop fuel from cyanobacteria that are more energetic and therefore particularly suitable for aircraft engines.

The project is formally called Forma Center for Metabolic Engineering, and it involves researchers Chalmers University in Sweden. It has received about EUR 3 million from the nonprofit Council Formas.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. "Making fuel from bacteria." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130313112211.htm>.
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. (2013, March 13). Making fuel from bacteria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130313112211.htm
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. "Making fuel from bacteria." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130313112211.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — Brave Robotics and Asratec teamed with original Transformers toy company Tomy to create a functional 5-foot-tall humanoid robot that can march and fold itself into a 3-foot-long sports car. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A California-based startup has designed new law enforcement technology that aims to automatically alert dispatch when an officer's gun is unholstered and fired. Two law enforcement agencies are currently testing the technology. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins