Turn CO2 Or Waste Products Into Fuel
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have recently proved, that genetically modified organism could turn carbon dioxide into a gasoline-compatible transportation fuel. A soil bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha has a natural tendency to stop growing and put all its energy into making complex carbon compounds. The genetically modified microbes are currently getting their carbon from fructose, however they are supposed soon to be able to draw it from industrial carbon dioxide gas emissions. The MIT team have demonstrated considerable success in modifying the microbe’s genes so that it converts carbon into isobutanol, a kind of alcohol that can be directly substituted for, or blended with, gasoline. Unlike some proposed biofuels, isobutanol can be used in current engines with little or no modification, and has already been used in some racing cars. This technology might also help lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and cut down the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. At present the researchers are focused on optimizing the system to increase the rate of production and designing bioreactors to scale the process up to industrial levels. This approach has several potential advantages over the production of ethanol from corn: bacterial systems are scalable, in theory allowing production of large amounts of biofuel in a factory-like environment. This system has the potential to derive carbon from waste products or carbon dioxide, and thus is not competing with the food supply.