Bacteria that make gasoline…

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

bacteria for fuel
Researchers engineered bacteria to produce gas.

If you could sneak a peek inside the fuel tanks of cars coasting down the highway, you would see that most of them contain gasoline. Well, there are millions of motor vehicles on the road at any given moment, so imagine how much gas everyone uses in a day?

It’s quite a lot, and in fact, we’re running out of supplies fast! That’s why many scientists are looking for ways to create their own alternative energy, like the folks from the University of Delaware who are building a machine that can make fuel from the Sun! That’s a very admirable goal, given that sunlight is basically neverending.

Well you know what else is almost limitless? Bacteria, and researchers from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have developed a way for the bacteria E. coli to produce gas using fatty acids!

Woah… I definitely don’t see the link there. Why use fat? Well, the molecules are basically a long chain of the elements hydrogen and carbon. Interestingly enough, alkanes (which are found in gas) are also made up in part by hydrogen and carbon.

When researchers scientifically tweaked the way bacteria digested food, the microorganisms were able to take fat and convert it into gasoline! “It is only the beginning of the work towards sustainable production of gasoline,” said Professor Sang Yup Lee, the leader of the study. “Nonetheless, we are pleased to report, for the first time, the production of gasoline through the metabolic engineering of E. coli, which we hope will serve as a basis for the metabolic engineering of microorganisms to produce fuels and chemicals from renewable resources.”

It’s funny that school and textbooks always seem to compare our bodies to machines. I bet they never dreamed that one day, cars would burn fat as a source of fuel!

Featured image courtesy of Liz West on Flickr. Image of bacteria courtesy of KAIST.