Reprogrammed Microbe Makes Butanol From Cellulose

A bioengineered version of the Clostridium cellulolyticum microbe can produce butanol directly from cellulose. Butanol is a promising biofuel; it packs more energy than ethanol and can be shipped via oil pipelines. James Liao, a biomolecular engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles, has demonstrated that direct cellulose-to-butanol conversion can be done more cheaply than other cellulosic biofuels.


(Reprogrammed Clostridium cellulolyticum turns cellulose into butanol)

Liao's direct cellulose-to-butanol process, developed in collaboration with researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, promises to simplify things by expanding the capabilities of fermentation microbes. The key was adding Liao's sugar-to-isobutanol pathway to a microbe, Clostridium cellulolyticum, that likes chewing on biomass but does not normally make butanol. The microbe was originally isolated from composted grass, and two years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute completed a sequence of its genome.

The result of the genetic engineering, published this month in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, is a single organism that takes in cellulose and cranks out isobutanol. Liao says the output and conversion rate are low, but says this "proof of principle" is likely the trickiest part of the development process. "The rest is relatively straightforward. Not trivial, but straightforward. It becomes a matter of funding and resources," says Liao.

SF writer Hal Clement introduced this idea to hard science fiction readers in his 1950 story Needle:

"They call 'em culture tanks. They have bugs -- germs -- growing in them; germs that eat pretty near anything, and produce oil as a waste product. That's the purpose of the whole business. We dump everything that's waste into the tanks, pump the oil off the top..."
(Read more about Clement's culture tanks)

Via Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/21/2011)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Worms Eat Plastic Now
'Slowly and inexorably, the rate of dissolution increased...' - Davis/Pedlar, 1971.

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.' - Peter Watts, 1999.

NASA's Prototype Lunar Greenhouse For Mars And Moon
'In contrast to the airless desolation outside, the interior of this five-acre greenhouse was the one most desirable place to be.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

Researchers Say 'Biohybrid Robot' - Clarke Said 'Biot'
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

TALOS Exoskeleton Development Proceeding
'Suited up, you look like a big steel gorilla...'

Autonomous Robots Navigate Like Rats
'Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted.'

SINTEF Robot Cleans Solar Panels
'The window cleaners, with large padded feet...'

Pangorin Restaurant Service Robots
What'll you have? Jawa juice?

Drug Creates Real Melanin Tan
I've used them all my life...

Medical Drones Hover Like Angels Near You
'The death-reversal equipment is on its way...'

SkEye Amazing Israeli Gigapixel Drone
'An eye that could not only see, but fly...'

How Rude! DARPA Wants Robots To Behave More Like Threepio
'Do I know protocol? Why, it's my primary function.'

'Liquid Light' Flows Around Corners
Light as a superfluid.

Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
'When unfolded and unrolled... it became a tough, gleaming film.'

Buddy Companion Robot Your Bulbous Friend
'Nanny was built in the shape of a sphere, a large metal sphere, flattened on the bottom...'

Poli-X1 Prototype Bee Pollinator
Is there anything drones can't do?

Bake in Space Bake-Off... In Space!
'A joyous condition commenced for the cook in the electric kitchen...'

DeepMind AI Baffled By Homer Simpson, Needs Human Help
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off...'

Does Earth's Middle Mantle Hold Oceans Of Water?
Al Gore, you have no idea.

Vaccine Blocks Heroin High
'You're biochemically incapable of getting off...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.