Future Biofuels Could Be Created Out of Thin Air: Craig Venter & Synthetic Genomics

blue sky clouds photo

photo: Dominic Alves

With the honeymoon phase of support for first generation biofuels (those derived from food crops such as corn, soybeans, etc) pretty much over, and research into second generation fuels (cellulosic fuels and those derived from non-food crops) ramping up, you’ll have to forgive me to jumping ahead to what may one day be termed third-generation biofuels: Ones using genetically engineered microbes to produce fuel. Yale Environment 360 has an interesting piece outlining some of the work being done in this area:Beyond Second Gen Feedstocks...
Although the original piece covers some of the work being done by companies like Amyris Biotechnologies, LS9, and Solazyme, TreeHugger’s gone over much of this work before: Feeding sugar to microbes or algae to produce synthetic diesel fuel, biodiesel or bio-aviation fuel. Cool stuff on the horizon to be sure, but the work being done by Craig Venter and Synthetic Genomics is even farther off and even more interesting.

Synthetic Genomics’ Photosynthetic Bacteria Produce Refinery Ready Lipids
Here’s is the quick version of how Venter wants to use microbes to create lipids which could go straight into oil refineries, and take greenhouse gases out of the air at the same time:

Instead of waiting for plants to make hydrocarbons, Venter wants to cut out the middleman and head straight for their original source of carbon: the air. Researchers at Synthetic Genomics have been experimenting with photosynthetic bacteria, which (like plants) use the energy in sunlight to combine water and carbon dioxide. Using some of the genes Venter’s team has discovered, the researchers have altered the bacteria. Now the microbes can rapidly build molecules known as lipids. Lipids come in a range of forms and serve many functions in cells, storing energy, for example, and forming membranes. But instead of using lipids for such purposes, Venter’s bacteria secrete them. Researchers at Synthetic Genomics have drawn up plans for gathering those lipids.

Read the entire original article: The High-Tech Search For A Cleaner Biofuel Alternative
Second & Third Generation Biofuels
Geneticist Craig Venter Wants to Create Fuel From CO2
New Algae-Based Aviation Fuel Passes Key ASTM Test For Jet Fuel
Genomics Could Help Create Better Biofuels

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