Bacteria as Biofuel: It’s Coming

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The search for renewable energy is a continual one. It’s also a necessary one, as we dry up the world’s remaining resources with a ferver that rivals the most focused of attentions. A Cambridge, MA based company, Joule Unlimited, however, thinks that race might be over with it’s ethanol creating genetically engineered bacteria.

The bacteria is called Cyanobacteria, one of the oldest living organisms in the world. They are what made Earth inhabitable to oxygen-loving folks like humans through photosynthesis, turning light energy into oxygen and other things. At least, that’s what they do if left to their own devices. Joule’s cyanobacteria take light, water and carbon dioxide in order to spit out alkanes, the building block of diesel fuel. To be even more clear, the bacteria they’ve manipulated genetically take the byproduct of industrial sites releasing and turn it into clean fuel. Pretty cool, huh?

So, what’s the down side? Well, you have to grow the bacteria in large tanks with ample sunlight and water; Joule Unlimited has created a tank called the SolarConverter to facilitate this. Costs, according to Joule, should be competitive with the company planning to create 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually at costs as low as 20 dollars per barrel.

Renewable fuel can change the industry and the world. I will certainly be watching Joule Unlimited, and you should too. Would you be interested in switching to biodiesel? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments!

[via New Scientist / Photo: Nat Tarbox on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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