London, Dec 11 (ANI): In a bid to drastically reduce the greenhouse effect, researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have genetically modified a cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide and produce the liquid fuel isobutanol, which holds great potential as a gasoline alternative.
The reaction is powered directly by energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis.
The new method has two advantages for the long-term, global-scale goal of achieving a cleaner and greener energy economy, said the researchers.
First, it recycles carbon dioxide, reducing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
Second, it uses solar energy to convert the carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel that can be used in the existing energy infrastructure, including in most automobiles.
While other alternatives to gasoline include deriving biofuels from plants or from algae, both of these processes require several intermediate steps before refinement into usable fuels.
"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," said team leader Dr. James C. Liao.
Using the cyanobacterium Synechoccus elongatus, researchers first genetically increased the quantity of the carbon dioxide-fixing enzyme RuBisCO.
Then they spliced genes from other microorganisms to engineer a strain that intakes carbon dioxide and sunlight and produces isobutyraldehyde gas.
The low boiling point and high vapour pressure of the gas allows it to easily be stripped from the system.
The engineered bacteria can produce isobutanol directly.
The study has been published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology. (ANI)