Could bacteria - biology's nanotechnological equivalent - be harnessed to help convert biomass into ethanol? Researchers from around the world gathered in Orlando, Florida to discuss different strategies for applying microbiology to produce energy. At least one presentation focused on R&D to genetically engineer bacteria that can ferment not only glucose sugar but also cellulosic feedstock directly into ethanol - bypassing the need for a separate enzyme pre-treatment step.
Research Highlights How Bacteria Produce Energy
ORLANDO – May 22, 2006 -- The world's smallest life forms could be the answer to one of today's biggest problems: providing sustainable, renewable energy for the future. Using a variety of natural food sources, bacteria can be used to create electricity, produce alternative fuels like ethanol and even boost the output of existing oil wells, according to research being presented this week at the 106th General Meeting of the (ASM) American Society for Microbiology in Orlando, Florida.
Researchers from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico announce that they have genetically engineered the bacterium Bacillus subtilis to directly ferment glucose sugar to ethanol with a high (86%) yield. This is the first step in a quest to develop bacteria that can breakdown and ferment cellulose biomass directly to ethanol.
"Currently ethanol is produced primarily from sugarcane or cornstarch, but much more biomass in the whole plant, including stems and leaves, can be converted to ethanol using clean technology," says Aida-Romero Garcia, one of the researchers on the study. The next step is to engineer the bacteria to produce the enzymes, known as cellulases, to break the stems and leaves down into the simple carbohydrates for fermentation.
technorati bioenergy, microbiology, bacteria, biofuels, ethanol,, cellulosic