RESEARCH
December 10, 2008

Engineered E. coli promise biofuel production

Genetically modify the common E. coli bacteria to produce energy-dense alcohols and you have a potential route to inexpensive biofuels.

The genetically modified bacteria overproduce an amino acid precursor, then convert the precursor into carbon-rich alcohols. The alcohols, which aren't otherwise produced by living organisms, are more energy dense than ethanol; they contain from five to eight carbon atoms per molecule, depending on the alcohol, compared to ethanol's two. Gasoline typically has about eight carbon atoms per molecule.

The alcohols are also easier to separate from water than ethanol, making them potentially easier to mass-produce.

Research paper:
Expanding Metabolism for Biosynthesis of Nonnatural Alcohols
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online December 8, 2008

Researchers' homepages:
Metabolic Engineering and Systems Biology Laboratory, University of California, Los Angeles
Michael R. Sawaya
David S. Eisenberg

Related stories and briefs:
Genetically modified microbe cranks out ethanol -- related research

Back to ERN December 15/22, 2008

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