Gallery: Self-Destructing Bacteria Could Be the Key to Better Biofuels

cyanobacteria, algae, pond scum, biofuel

Normally we don’t advocate self-destruction, but in the case of biofuel-producing bacteria, it might be a good thing. Researchers at Arizona State University have genetically engineered cyanobacteria that dissolve from the inside out, making it easy to access the high-energy fats and biofuel byproducts located within. The development could be tremendously beneficial for fuel production, since cyanobacteria are photosynthetic microbes (AKA pond scum) that have a higher yield potential than most biofuels currently being used.

The ASU researchers combined cyonabacteria material with genes from the bacteriaphage — a so-called “mortal enemy” of bacteria that cause it to explode — to create a new form of cyanobacteria that uses bacteriaphage-like enzymes to dissolve its membranes from within. Previously, scientists had to use a number of cost-intensive steps to access the fats located inside cyanobacteria’s burrito-like protective membranes.

It will probably be a long time before we see biofuels created from the ASU system on the market, but eventually the process could lead to cheaper biofuels — all thanks to some lowly, self-destructive pond scum.

+ Arizona State University

Via Greenbang


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1 Comment

  1. c-gomes December 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    The tone in article is ridiculous. Lowly, self-destructive pond scum? It is because of that lowly pond scum that life as we know it is possible.

    ASU’s take on the matter, however, is also something I’m uncomfortable with. Fortunately, though, this kind of biofuel is likely not to take over as a major fuel. Hopefully, larger capacity and lower wear batteries will do that there faster and better.

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