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Old 01-28-2010, 11:11 AM   #1
RichM
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Default Engineering E. coli to produce biodiesel

http://arstechnica.com/science/news/...-biodiesel.ars

The full white paper can be purchased here if so inclined;
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal...ture08721.html

Quote:
Engineering E. coli to produce biodiesel

By Casey Johnston | Last updated January 28, 2010 9:04 AM

Scientists have found that it is possible to alter the genetic makeup of the bacterium E. coli to and induce it to produce biodiesel. Most microbes, including E. coli, make and process fatty acids, one of the ingredients of biodiesel; however, what they do with it often leaves something to be desired when it comes to fuel production. By modifying E. coli, scientists are able to make it produce fatty esters, which are the primary components of biodiesel.

Engineering bacteria to do a scientist's bidding is a good way to obtain desired materials, such as natural compounds for drugs, or in this case, fuels. Since E. coli is a well known and often-studied microorganism, and is able to produce fatty acids before any alteration, it is an excellent workhorse for synthetic biology.

The changes performed here include removing the enzymes involved in some competing pathways in order to enhance fatty acid production. Additional pathways were added in to convert those fatty acids to fatty esters, which make for better biofuel material. Finally, enzymes that break down the cellulose in plant matter were added in, allowing the E. coli to work directly on biomass.

The altered E. coli can receive various inputs, including partially processed material like glucose and ethanol, and produce fatty acid methyl esters, or biodiesel. The bacteria also produce some fatty alcohols, waxes, and simple sugars that may be harvested and used for other purposes. The authors of the paper argue that the process has advantages over corn ethanol and other plant oil-derived biodiesels, as its production doesn't require the use of anything that could be a food source, which means no issues with higher prices or questionable land use practices.
Nature, 2010. DOI: 10.1038/nature08721
I figure this will elicit some rather interesting comments. Yes I realize there are some rather scary consequences for making mistakes with this stuff but there are benefits. Acceptance depends on peoples personal level of risk acceptance. So Hondaslayer and Bigelm, you might want to get ready with that lock button in case this gets ugly.
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Old 01-28-2010, 12:20 PM   #2
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I saw a video on this 2 years ago
it's also possible to use algae to make energy
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:22 PM   #3
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It remains to be seen if biodiel production via bioengineered microorganisms can be commercialized cheaper and faster than via gasification and catalytic synthesis. There are great advancements being made in both fields.

One plus to the direct synthesis route, no bio-engineered bugs to escape. Otoh, i'm given to understand the engineered bacteria don't handle living outside their coddled lab existence very well.
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:26 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Chromer View Post
It remains to be seen if biodiel production via bioengineered microorganisms can be commercialized cheaper and faster than via gasification and catalytic synthesis. There are great advancements being made in both fields.

One plus to the direct synthesis route, no bio-engineered bugs to escape. Otoh, i'm given to understand the engineered bacteria don't handle living outside their coddled lab existence very well.
Nerd words!
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:41 PM   #5
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'Ah runs mah truk on corn likker sos I don't send no money to the A-rabs.'

Fair warning going forward: I stopped apologizing for having intellectual interests a long, long time ago. If you want to be mediocre, that's your issue.
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Old 01-28-2010, 02:20 PM   #6
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Fair warning going forward: I stopped apologizing for having intellectual interests a long, long time ago. If you want to be mediocre, that's your issue.
BSME, MSEE, and JD here. It was a joke.
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Old 01-28-2010, 02:50 PM   #7
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Default Bacteria and CO2 to butanol.

http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/ne...anol-from-co2/

Quote:
Breakthrough Bacteria That Makes Butanol From CO2

December 11, 2009 |


UCLA researchers at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have genetically modified a cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide in a set of steps to produce the liquid fuel isobutanol. Isobutanol is a form of the alcohol butanol, a favorite for many in a transition away from fossil fuels as butanol based products should very easily adapt with little or no changes to the engines that burn gasoline thus having a shorter transition time frame for the greatest potential as a gasoline alternative. Butanol is a liquid energy dense alcohol in a four-carbon molecule.
UCLAs Synechococcus Elongatus in Petri Dish. Click image for more info.

The research paper is in the Dec. 9 print edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology and is available online, both as the abstract and the full text, for an indeterminate time at least.
Now the research is based on bacteria, thus the genetic modification is about the insertion of genes into the organism. In short, the research team at UCLA has managed to find and modify the bacteria they use to produce primarily the chemical isobutyraldehyde and some isobutanol. Isobutyraldehyde is a precursor for the synthesis of other chemicals, and isobutanol can be used as a gasoline substitute. Other bacteria and chemical processes can convert the isobutyraldehyde into isobutanol.
One engineered strain remained active for 8 days and produced isobutyraldehyde at a higher rate than those reported for ethanol, hydrogen or lipid production by cyanobacteria or by algae. The results underscore the promise of direct bioconversion of CO2 into fuels and chemicals, which bypasses the need for destroying the organisms to extract the products. That in itself in very good news indeed, as the algae effort is essentially plugged by the work needed to get the oil out for processing.
UCLA Isobutyraldehyde Production Results. Click image for more info.

The UCLA researchers chose isobutyraldehyde as a target because it has a low boiling point, only 63 °C and its high vapor pressure is 66 mm Hg at 4.4 °C. That suggests it can be readily stripped from microbial cultures during production. Subsequent purification is also relatively easy, and the isobutyraldehyde concentration in the production medium can remain low, below self-toxification levels.
Using more than one modified strain the UCLA team has come up with more than one production path. As you peruse the paper it becomes clear the genetic modifications are at the very earliest stages and much more experimentation is forthcoming. For example, one discussed strain produced nearly at the rate reliable algae claims can make. The strain lives productively for 8 days or so, and refreshed with new growth medium, resumes production without new organisms. Its quite different than algae that must be essentially killed and pressed some way to extract the oil or the yeast of ethanol production that are life cycled in each batch.
The significance of the UCLA work is that their technical skills have shown the production of isobutyraldehyde as a precursor to butanol fuel is technically feasible, using nothing more than sunlight and airborne CO2 as the raw materials. Of note, the paper also mentions that the methods have used CO2 in concentrated form, but only up to a 5% level. That low level lowers the threshold needed to consider the CO2 cost in the process.
While its quite early in the UCLA team’s progress, they have a very significant breakthrough. The research could well lead to an industrial scale method to produce light motor fuel, and do so quickly. The capital costs if or when scale is obtainable look at this point in time to be much less than algae or ethanol. Yet, full of unknowns, the basics here are very encouraging.
The value for the work is immediate. As an essentially a drop in replacement for gasoline, butanol production at large economical scale would cap oil prices and may well drive down the cost per passenger mile over time.
This writer is certain the algae effort will come to fruition in its time solving the problem of supplying the middle distillate range of oils like diesel, jet, kerosene and home heating oil. A butanol solution at economical scale would fill the personal and light vehicle segment of the transport fleet including virtually all of the existing vehicles.
But butanol would have the most impact in the balance of trade problem that importing oil products load on consuming nations for their gasoline needs.
Just to keep the peace, both bacteria based butanol production and algae sourced middle distillate replacements would operate within the planet’s contemporaneous carbon cycle putting humanity in step with the rest of the life on earth. It could lead to a reduction of the CO2 available in the atmosphere, which might seem to some – a good thing.
Information on Butanol fuel from Wikipedia.
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Old 01-28-2010, 05:55 PM   #8
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Biodisel producing E. coli, hmmmmm...

So if you don't cook your burger long enough you can use your crap to drive yourself to the doctor...
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Old 01-28-2010, 07:16 PM   #9
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This is really encouraging news, now if we can scale it before we all kill each other...
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Old 01-28-2010, 07:48 PM   #10
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If you're interested in keeping up on this kind of stuff, Green Car Congress is a fantastic blog that usually provides very good detail in their summaries.

In the past few days they've covered this and several other announcements in catalysts and process improvements. Apparently we're getting pretty good at turning CO2 into useful hydrocarbons.
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Old 01-28-2010, 11:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichM View Post
http://arstechnica.com/science/news/...-biodiesel.ars

The full white paper can be purchased here if so inclined;
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal...ture08721.html

I figure this will elicit some rather interesting comments. Yes I realize there are some rather scary consequences for making mistakes with this stuff but there are benefits. Acceptance depends on peoples personal level of risk acceptance. So Hondaslayer and Bigelm, you might want to get ready with that lock button in case this gets ugly.
I like this. If it can produce useful quantities of biodiesel without sunlight as a direct input, this means it can be made in factories instead of open ponds. This means the process can be isolated and contamination kept to a minimum. And I am not a big fan of most green technology, but I love biofuels. Such promise.
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Old 02-03-2010, 01:30 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coolbluelb View Post
Biodisel producing E. coli, hmmmmm...

So if you don't cook your burger long enough you can use your crap to drive yourself to the doctor...
Actually - e.coli is basically found in crap - the meat contamination everyone hears about every few years is related to slaughter house contamination ie cow crap contaminating the end meat products.

E.coli actually isn't all that dangerous its found almost everywhere its only when a person gets a really good shot of it in contaminated under cooked food when you find your self in trouble.

My guess is that because its a commonly found critter and exibits fast reproduction and growth in cultures not to mention a fairly simple organism they figure they might be able to modify it so that it or its by products can be used for bio diesel.

When it comes to this concept of alge or e.coli bio diesel - its like tapping a never ending supply given this stuff will always be around and long after we are gone. Vs the old dino oil we pump out of the ground at some point its going to get tough to find the easy oil and its price will go up.
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Old 02-03-2010, 01:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sokkarr View Post
I like this. If it can produce useful quantities of biodiesel without sunlight as a direct input, this means it can be made in factories instead of open ponds. This means the process can be isolated and contamination kept to a minimum. And I am not a big fan of most green technology, but I love biofuels. Such promise.
The alge diesel concept does not use open ponds.

They use simple steel racks with large clear bags hanging from them. The smart alge folks are rigging up these alge farms next to coal burning power plants where higher ie concentrated levels of Co can be bubbled through the alge to speed up the growth ie production which case its like 3X -5X faster given the food supply. To top if off we are taking waste Co from power plants pumping it through critters that are the fastest growing thing on the planet and getting go juice for our cars etc.
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Old 02-03-2010, 03:32 PM   #14
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I like butanol a lot more than ethanol, so it is always good to see it get a bit of press.
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Old 02-03-2010, 03:36 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by sxotty View Post
I like butanol a lot more than ethanol, so it is always good to see it get a bit of press.
For good reason Ethanol is about the most inefficient fuel one could use - the amount of stored energy in Ethanol is pretty small compared to most other sources ie gas - diesel - natural gas/LPU and yes Butanol. In laymans terms you get more bang for your buck with any of the fuels I just listed vs Ethanol
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Old 02-03-2010, 03:42 PM   #16
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thats awesome, we have e.coli bacteria in our gut, but there are some that make us sick. I love this experiment (I'm such a nerd)
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Old 02-03-2010, 05:46 PM   #17
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I hope biodiesel doesn't kill off ethanol though. E85 is wonderful in our cars
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Old 02-03-2010, 06:35 PM   #18
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Our Bioinformatics program had someone from Harvard come talk to us about his post doc work which involved conducting and verifying multiple gene changes in bacteria. They were using lycopene production as a test.

Playing God is awesome!

Too bad bio-fuel kinda fell away from the public eye.... At least I don't hear a whole lot of buzz about it.
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:52 PM   #19
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I hope biodiesel doesn't kill off ethanol though. E85 is wonderful in our cars
Well biodiesel can only still be used for diesel cars. E85 is for gasoline running cars no?
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Old 02-04-2010, 02:27 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Chromer View Post
'Ah runs mah truk on corn likker sos I don't send no money to the A-rabs.'

Fair warning going forward: I stopped apologizing for having intellectual interests a long, long time ago. If you want to be mediocre, that's your issue.
really.. You are one of the few posters in here worth reading.
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Old 02-04-2010, 02:46 AM   #21
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President Barack Obama today announced a series of steps his Administration is taking as part of its strategy to “enhance American energy independence while building a foundation for a new clean energy economy, and its promise of new industries and millions of jobs.”

The announcement comes as the Administration is under attack for its failure to create jobs despite promises to do so, and with unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression.

At a meeting of Republican and Democratic governors, the President proposed three measures would boost biofuels production and reduce dependence on foreign oil – all of them now cloaked as job creating.

The measures at first glance will be controversial, as they seem to require vast new taxpayer subsidies to special interest groups in the agriculture and energy industries. The administration is also under attack for growing deficits, of course, by the Republican party, which turned a budget surplus into a breathtaking deficit after eight years of rule, one that is only getting worse since the collapse of the financial markets in the fall of 2008 and the ensuing and ongoing great recession.

Perhaps the most controversial item as details emerge will be the President’s call for five to ten commercial demonstration projects to be up and running by 2016 of so-called “clean coal” projects, particularly carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The President in a memorandum established an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage to develop a “comprehensive and coordinated federal strategy to speed the development and deployment of clean coal technologies.”

The Task Force will be co-chaired by representatives of from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, and include participants from at least nine different agencies and offices. The Task Force shall develop within 180 days a plan to overcome the barriers to the deployment of widespread affordable CCS within 10 years. How the inevitable subsidies that will emerge for energy companies will be funded was not specified.

Also controversial will be a proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) that would provide financing to increase the conversion of biomass to bioenergy.

The President’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group released its first report – Growing America’s Fuel. The report, authored by group co-chairs, Secretaries Vilsack and Chu, and Administrator Jackson, lays out a strategy to advance the “development and commercialization” of a sustainable biofuels industry to meet or exceed the nation’s biofuels targets. USDA already provides grants and loans, and other financial support to help biofuels and renewable energy commercialization. BCAP has begun to provide matching payments to folks delivering biomass for the collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of biomass to eligible biomass conversion facilities. Expect more agricultural subsidies to be forthcoming.

President Obama said, “Now, I happen to believe that we should pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill.” The reference is to the climate change bill that seems to be stalled or perhaps dead in the Senate.

“It will make clean energy the profitable kind of energy, and the decision by other nations to do this is already giving their businesses a leg up on developing clean energy jobs and technologies. But even if you disagree on the threat posed by climate change, investing in clean energy jobs and businesses is still the right thing to do for our economy.

Reducing our dependence on foreign oil is still the right thing to do for our security. We can’t afford to spin our wheels while the rest of the world speeds ahead,” Obama concluded
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Old 02-04-2010, 06:59 AM   #22
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Chu is a smart fellow. I am glad he is in the position he is. It has definitely improved our energy policy, but they are still hampered by special interests significantly.

For example the subsidies for growing corn are dumb. But there is no way they can end them. CCS on coal plants is actually a good thing regardless of climate change. It reduces other pollutants as well. Given the amount of coal in the world if we burn a significant portion of it we would actually increase CO2 levels high enough that the air would not meet OSHA requirements even if the climate was unaffected. That means if you want to use the energy in the coal at some point in the future CCS will be necessary anyway.

I would prefer more nukes myself though. There are downsides to everything, but I do believe that nukes are a good compromise. Combustion of fuel of any kind greatly increases entropy and it makes it hard to deal with the waste. Nukes have high level waste, but at lest the waste is contained and compact.
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Old 02-04-2010, 04:40 PM   #23
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Sorry kids, but this has been talked about for a decade, if not more. This isnt exactly breaking news.

E. Coli have, and continue to be used to produce everything under the sun. Insulin is a perfect example. There are also numerous other candidates such as CHO that can be used to do our bidding.
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