Scientists at MIT have genetically engineered a soil bacteria that can create fuel for cars. The bioengineered Ralstonia eutropha converts carbon into isobutanol—an alcohol that can replace or blend with gasoline used by vehicles. The new technology could help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and significantly decrease our carbon footprint.
The Ralstonia eutropha bacterium is able to turn molecules of carbon from sugar into energy-dense polymers. By swapping out its genes MIT biologists were able to get the bacteria to produce isobutanol instead of the polymer.
Unlike common biofuels that have to go through a process of modification in order to be used in cars, the new energy-dense fuel produced by the soil bacteria could directly replace gasoline, requiring no refining.
Scientists are now looking into making the bacteria create isobutanol straight from fossil fuel emissions. They believe that, with additional genetic alterations, the bacteria sould be able to feed on carbon from any source—from industrial carbon dioxide gas emissions to agricultural waste. The bacteria already utilize hydrogen and carbon dioxide for growth.
The MIT research has received about $1.8 million from ARPA-E- the Advanced Research Projects Agency within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that focuses on high-risk, high-reward projects. The research was published in the August issue of the journal Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.
Via Co. Exist
Second Image by Christopher Brigham, MIT