Fueled by bacteria
Think about alternative energy sources for automobiles. Biofuels? Sure. Electricity? You bet. But bacteria? If scientists at Michigan State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have their way, they will succeed in making a bacterium capable of metabolizing hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce isobutanol—aka gasoline’s future replacement.
“This project focuses on getting alternative fuels from gases rather than biomass. And instead of releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, they’re captured to create fuel,” says R. Mark Worden, MSU professor of chemical engineering, who was tapped to build a custom-made bioreactor suited specifically for the unique fermentation process.
Solar power will be used to make electricity that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then a bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha, which is being engineered by the MIT group, will be used to recombine the two in Worden’s bioreactor to create isobutanol as a fuel source.
Call it a perfect fermentation of sorts. One that will accelerate innovation in clean energy technology, increase America’s competitiveness, and create jobs. Not to mention help save the planet.
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Watch a video of Mark Worden explaining the benefits of alternative fuels.