Genome Engineering Could Provide New Method of Creating Diesel

Nov 16, 2009 by Miranda Marquit weblog
Diesel fuel. Image credit: Shizhao via Wikimedia Commons

When we think of genetic engineering, our minds often jump to giant tomatoes and animal cloning. However, this is not always the case.

Joule Biotechnologies, Inc. has announced that it has used a process of genome engineering to create organisms that can turn carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons that can be used as fuel. The process will be powered by the sun. Joule is planning to create a viable diesel production process using light and air. In a press release from Joule, the basics of the process are explained:

Joule is advancing a new, photosynthesis-driven approach to producing renewable fuels, avoiding the economic and environmental burden of multi-step, cellulosic or algal biomass-derived methods. The company employs a novel SolarConverter system, together with proprietary, product-specific organisms and state-of-the-art process design, to harness the power of sunlight while consuming waste CO2. Its pioneering technology platform has already been proven out with the conversion of CO2 into ethanol at high productivities, a process that enters pilot development in early 2010. With this latest feat of genome engineering, Joule is now capable of directly producing hydrocarbons - setting the stage for delivery of infrastructure-compatible diesel fuel without the need for raw material feedstocks or complex refining.

The breakthrough was made possible by the discovery of unique genes coding for enzymatic mechanisms that enable the direct synthesis of both alkane and olefin molecules - the chemical composition of diesel. Production was achieved at lab scale, with pilot development slated for early 2011.

Joule is hoping that its process will help reduce dependence on other sources of diesel, fostering better energy independence. The organisms that Joule is engineering are capable of directly secreting hyrdocoarbon molecules. Joule points out that it will be using non-arable land, as the process will not need to grow crops. No fresh water will be needed, either.

The idea of creating diesel using light and air (and a few other components) is an interesting concept if Joule can make it work, and one that could help reduce reliance on oil for diesel fuel, as well as reducing overall carbon emissions present in the diesel fuel production process.

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Pterostilbene, a molecule similar to resveratrol, as a potential treatment for obesity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New biofuel from trees developed at UGA

May 18, 2007

A team of University of Georgia researchers has developed a new biofuel derived from wood chips. Unlike previous fuels derived from wood, the new and still unnamed fuel can be blended with biodiesel and petroleum ...

Engineering algae to make fuel instead of sugar

Dec 17, 2008

In pursuing cleaner energy there is such a thing as being too green. Unicellular microalgae, for instance, can be considered too green. In a paper in a special energy issue of Optics Express, the Optical Society's (OSA) ...

Rainforest fungus makes diesel

Nov 03, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- A unique fungus that makes diesel compounds has been discovered living in trees in the rainforest, according to a paper published in the November issue of Microbiology. The fungus is potent ...

Waste coffee grounds offer new source of biodiesel fuel

Dec 10, 2008

Researchers in Nevada are reporting that waste coffee grounds can provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel for powering cars and trucks. Their study has been published ...

Recommended for you

Why plants don't get sunburn

Oct 29, 2014

Plants rely on sunlight to make their food, but they also need protection from its harmful rays, just like humans do. Recently, scientists discovered a group of molecules in plants that shields them from ...

Viral switches share a shape

Oct 27, 2014

A hinge in the RNA genome of the virus that causes hepatitis C works like a switch that can be flipped to prevent it from replicating in infected cells. Scientists have discovered that this shape is shared by several other ...

'Sticky' ends start synthetic collagen growth

Oct 27, 2014

Rice University researchers have delivered a scientific one-two punch with a pair of papers that detail how synthetic collagen fibers self-assemble via their sticky ends.

Cell membranes self-assemble

Oct 27, 2014

A self-driven reaction can assemble phospholipid membranes like those that enclose cells, a team of chemists at the University of California, San Diego, reports in Angewandte Chemie.

Emergent behavior lets bubbles 'sense' environment

Oct 27, 2014

Tiny, soapy bubbles can reorganize their membranes to let material flow in and out in response to the surrounding environment, according to new work carried out in an international collaboration by biomedical ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

theken101
not rated yet Nov 20, 2009
Or he could just use Amyris renewable-diesel-producing yeast...just a thought!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.