using E-coli to produce biofuels

Nature 463, 559-562 (28 January 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature08721; Received 10 September 2009; Accepted 27 November 2009

Microbial production of fatty-acid-derived fuels and chemicals from plant biomass

Eric J. Steen, Yisheng Kang, Gregory Bokinsky, Zhihao Hu, Andreas Schirmer, Amy McClure, Stephen B. del Cardayre & Jay D. Keasling

This article provides us an alternative to obtain biofuels. Despite various disadvantages of traditional biofuel feedstocks, Microbial production of biofuel seems like a good idea. Researchers seek ways to produce high-energy biofuels that could be directly burned in today’s engines without modifications. According to the study, E-coli can be used because of its amendable genetic nature. By genetically modify E-coli, they were able to produce structurally tailored fatty esters (biodiesel), fatty alcohols, and waxes directly from simple sugars. But I am not sure how fatty acids produced by E-coli can be burned in today’s engines.

Compared to controversial feedstock algae, biofuel production with E. coli may be more efficient in that growing algae on a large scale can be problematic. In addition, a study by University of Virginia found that algal based biofuels may not as green as claimed. However, scale production to a commercial level is still unforeseeable.

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