Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Dec 25

Converting Carbon Dioxide into Liquid Fuel with Bacteria

Posted in Biofuels | Energy Inventions | Future Technology

Liquid Fuel Bacteria More and more people are becoming aware of the harmful effects of greenhouse gases. Common people and scientists both are gearing up to reduce carbon footprints. Now more investments are available for research in alternative energy. Researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have genetically been working on a cyanobacterium. Their research paper was published in the Dec. 9 print edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology. They successfully modified a cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide and generate the liquid fuel isobutanol. This isobutanol can prove to be of great potential as a gasoline alternative. The whole process happens with the help of sunlight through photosynthesis.


James C. Liao is the team leader of this project. He is also the Chancellor’s Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA and associate director of the UCLA-Department of Energy Institute for Genomics and Proteomics. He voiced his opinions about the biofuel, “This new approach avoids the need for biomass deconstruction, either in the case of cellulosic biomass or algal biomass, which is a major economic barrier for biofuel production. Therefore, this is potentially much more efficient and less expensive than the current approach.”

This new method carries several advantages. If we care to look at this fuel in the long term scenario and want to achieve a cleaner and greener energy economy, this fuel might prove helpful. Its first advantage is, it recycles carbon dioxide, which leads to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Its second advantage is, it uses solar energy to convert the carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel. This fuel is an improvement over other alternatives to gasoline. Other biofuels are derived from plants or algae and both of these processes need numerous intermediate steps before refinement into usable fuels.

Researchers experimented on the cyanobacterium Synechoccus elongates. They first genetically increased the quantity of the carbon dioxide-fixing enzyme RuBisCO. Then they tied together genes from other microorganisms to engineer a strain. This strain utilizes carbon dioxide and sunlight and produces isobutyraldehyde gas. The low boiling point and high vapor pressure of the gas make it possible to remove this gas from the system. The engineered bacteria can generate isobutanol directly. But researchers are not very enthusiastic about it. They are of the view that it is good to utilize a time tested and relatively cheap chemical catalysis process to convert isobutyraldehyde gas to isobutanol, as well as other useful petroleum-based products.

Researchers think that an apt location for this system would be near a power plant because they emit carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide can be utilized and converted into liquid fuel.

Liao said, “We are continuing to improve the rate and yield of the production. Other obstacles include the efficiency of light distribution and reduction of bioreactor cost. We are working on solutions to these problems.”

  • http://Recoverybydiscovery.com Michael Foster

    How cost effective and efficient is it at this stage?

  • Daniel

    I was wondering how such a plant will work. What would the structure entail or look like?

  • Brian Kanouse

    It is too bad that the good of the earth and mankind are determined on a dollar cost and efficiency level of projects. Is the dollar as important as the health of our planet? Every small alternative energy project that advances takes that much more away from our current methods.

  • http://www.richardasun.com Rich SUn

    Brian,
    Let’s go back to basics–econ 101. The dollar (or any currency) is a store of value and measure of the resources you consume. It the cost to produce a good is greater than its value either(1) you will reduce wealth and income (usually disproportionately to poor people–probably not your intended goal) or (2)the cost value system is inaccurate. If you want to lament something, and you should, do it with a least a college level of economic literacy, lament that pollution costs are not fully taken into account in the costing. Otherwise, you are a danger to the green movement.
    Rich Sun

  • Andrew Pingree

    All ideas for utilizing CO2 in the atmosphere are brilliant. We need more of this sort of thing. (The next step after developing the fundamentals of an idea like this, I think, is to engage with governments for research funding).

    I think that if CO2 and/or methane can be captured in such a way as to manufacture building materials and other permanent structural materials, this would be even better because that sort of application will keep the carbon out of the atmosphere instead of cycling it back and forth.

  • Brian Kanouse

    Rich, Your view is valued but it is exactly what I was speaking of. Please re-read and reconsider.

  • http://www.richardasun.com Rich Sun

    Brian,
    I can’t read your language to be in sync with mine. If you agree with my assertions great. Dollar cost and economic efficiency–fully-costed and properly measured–are exactly the way projects should be valued and accepted or rejected.
    Rich Sun

  • Darth Vegas

    Sorry Rich, while I truly appreciate your pragmatic approach, I think you’re missing Frank’s point. Seriously, we’re talking about the survival of the freakin planet, why does every argument boil down to nickels and dimes? Common sense is all it takes to choose to pay for sustainability?

  • Leonard

    And where do we keep the biomass? Will we burn it?

  • Escapism

    Well Brian and Darth, we are indeed talking about the survival of the planet, however you have to consider Rich’s view. After all, the infrastructure needed for such a project as well as the financing has to come down from somewhere, as well as salaries and raw materials. so why does every argument come down to nickels and dimes? Because whats needed to make it come from somewhere, and at that somewhere someone has to be doing the work. And while the survival of the planet is important that thought alone wont feed the man doing the work.

  • Brian Kanouse

    Escapism,

    The world in the last 20 years has turned to greed. The average NFL player in the 1960s earned 20,000 to 60,000 dollars, they now make 10 to 20,000,000 dollars per contract. The average worker has to spend his entire pay check to take his family to the game. In the same token the someone doing the work expects to make millions based on their education. This is what keeps the Bio-energy projects out of reach. Why should a wind turbine cost hundreds of thousands to millions to build? The materials are cheap.


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