Feeds

E. coli turns seaweed into ethanol

Berkeley’s belly-bug bio-fuel breakthrough

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A group of scientists from Berkeley has used an engineered form of the E. coli bacterium to turn sugars in seaweed into ethanol.

The breakthrough is attractive because if it could be commercialised, it would allow biofuels to be created without displacing crops or forests.

According to the report published in Science, the engineered bacteria can metabolize alginate, which is seaweed’s primary sugar constituent. Not only that, but it works without requiring heat or chemicals to pre-treat the seaweed, reducing the number of processing steps needed to create a biofuel.

DNA from E. coli – a workhorse in the lower intestine, but with a few strains that cause illness, giving it a poor reputation in the popular mind – was mixed with DNA from various marine microorganisms. These included Pseudoalteromonas, which provided genes to produce an enzyme to break up alginate; and Vibrio splendidus to digest the alginate.

The scientists claim the engineered E. coli yields “80 percent of the theoretical maximum amount of ethanol for a given amount of biomass”.

They calculate that a commercial plant could produce 19,000 liters per hectare annually, which is twice as productive as sugar cane-based ethanol and five times as productive as corn. This leads them to the perhaps-optimistic conclusion that “less than three percent of the world’s coastal waters can produce enough seaweed to replace some 60 billion gallons of fossil fuel”.

The chief executive of Berkeley’s Bio Architecture Lab, Daniel Trunfio, says their technique “makes the [seaweed] biomass an economic feedstock for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals”.

The Berkeley researchers worked under grants from the US Department of Energy, InnovaChile, and Norwegian oil company Statoil. The lab currently operates four aquafarming sites in Chile, and hopes to scale up its production towards commercialization over the next three years. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.