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Engineering Bacteria To change carbon dioxide into fuel

ScienceDaily (December 11, 2009) - Global climate change has encouraged efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels. In the new approach, researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has a genetically modified cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide and produce liquid fuels isobutanol, which holds great potential as an alternative to gasoline. This reaction is supported directly by the energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis. Research published on December 9 in the print edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology and available online.

This new method has two advantages for the long term, global goals achieve a cleaner and greener energy economy, researchers said. First, the bacteria that recycle carbon dioxide, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning. Second, using the sun's energy to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels that can be used in the existing energy infrastructure, including in most cars. While other alternatives are biofuels derived from plants or from algae, both processes require several intermediate steps before the repairs to the fuel can be used.

"This new approach avoids the need for biomass deconstruction, both in the case of cellulosic biomass or biomass of algae, which is the main economic barrier to biofuel production," said team leader James C. Liao, Chancellor's Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA and associate director of the UCLA-Department of Energy Institute for Genomics and Proteomics. "Therefore, it potentially far more efficient and less expensive than the approach." Using a cyanobacterium Synechoccus elongatus, genetic researchers to increase the quantity of carbon dioxide-fixing enzyme RuBisCO method. Then they spliced the genes of the bacteria had been spliced with genes of other microorganisms. to be able to collect carbon dioxide and sunlight and produce gas isobutyraldehyde. Low boiling point and high vapor pressure of the gas allows it to easily be removed from the system.

Engineered bacteria that can produce isobutanol directly, but researchers said the country's much easier to use an existing and relatively inexpensive chemical catalytic process to convert gas isobutyraldehyde to isobutanol, as well as other useful products based on petroleum. In addition to Liao, the research team includes lead author Shota Atsumi, the former UCLA postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis faculty, and UCLA postdoctoral scholar Wendy Higashide. An ideal place for this system will power at the plants that emit carbon dioxide, the researchers say, potentially allowing greenhouse gases to be captured and recycled directly into liquid fuels. "We continue to improve the speed and production," said Liao. "Other obstacles include the distribution of light efficiency and cost reduction bioreactor. We are working on solutions to these problems. "

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