Reprogrammed Microbe Makes Butanol From Cellulose

A bioengineered version of the Clostridium cellulolyticum microbe can produce butanol directly from cellulose. Butanol is a promising biofuel; it packs more energy than ethanol and can be shipped via oil pipelines. James Liao, a biomolecular engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles, has demonstrated that direct cellulose-to-butanol conversion can be done more cheaply than other cellulosic biofuels.


(Reprogrammed Clostridium cellulolyticum turns cellulose into butanol)

Liao's direct cellulose-to-butanol process, developed in collaboration with researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, promises to simplify things by expanding the capabilities of fermentation microbes. The key was adding Liao's sugar-to-isobutanol pathway to a microbe, Clostridium cellulolyticum, that likes chewing on biomass but does not normally make butanol. The microbe was originally isolated from composted grass, and two years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute completed a sequence of its genome.

The result of the genetic engineering, published this month in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, is a single organism that takes in cellulose and cranks out isobutanol. Liao says the output and conversion rate are low, but says this "proof of principle" is likely the trickiest part of the development process. "The rest is relatively straightforward. Not trivial, but straightforward. It becomes a matter of funding and resources," says Liao.

SF writer Hal Clement introduced this idea to hard science fiction readers in his 1950 story Needle:

"They call 'em culture tanks. They have bugs -- germs -- growing in them; germs that eat pretty near anything, and produce oil as a waste product. That's the purpose of the whole business. We dump everything that's waste into the tanks, pump the oil off the top..."
(Read more about Clement's culture tanks)

Via Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/21/2011)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

DNA May Contain Malware
'You were told to embed the logical pathogen.' - A. Reynolds and S. Baxter, 2016.

GMO Houseplant Cleans Your Air
Removes compounds too small to be captured by a HEPA filter.

Oil from Algae - Can It Be Done?
'We dump everything that's waste into the tanks, pump the oil off the top.' - Hal Clement, 1950.

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

North Focals Smart Glasses Provide Augmented Reality In Style
'The world ... is drenched in unfamiliar information all the way to the horizon.'

Tesla Driver Caught Napping Behind The Wheel
'Mary Risling settled back for a little nap...'

Hayabusa 2 To Begin Asteroid Mining
'We must dig down, and then doubtless we shall find the metal.'

Ionocraft Drone Powered By Electrohydrodynamic Thrust
'He saw one hiss by him as he rounded the corner, trailing a short whip antenna...'

Purdue Pharma Ready To Profit From OxyContin Use Or Addiction Recovery
'It may be organic damage. It may be permanent. Time'll tell, and only after you are off Substance D for a long while.'

BloxVox Mutes Cellphone Convos
It's the polite thing to do, and has been the polite thing to do for about four generations.

Superfast Replicator: Volumetric Additive Manufacturing
I can't wait. Bring it on.

DNA May Contain Malware
'You were told to embed the logical pathogen.'

I Can't Resist Worm Robots
'Seen close it was not completely flexible...'

Rplate Digital License Plates Now Legal In Michigan
'Gragg's digital ink license plates ...'

Can Musk Starship Astronauts Use Magnetic Boots?
'Walking awkwardly in the magnetic boots that held him to the black mass of meteoric iron...'

Giant Dolphin Spotted On Jupiter!
'Now at last he could appreciate its real size and complexity...'

Musk's Starship An SF Fan's Dream Come True
Perfect for testing, perfect for fans!

TinyMobileRobots Are Sewer Sentinels
Every movie monster gets its start someplace.

Fishy Facial Recognition Now Possible
'Palenkis can identify random line patterns better than any other species in the universe.'

Spicy Tomatoes Created With Genetic Engineering
How about mashed potatoes and brown gravy?

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.