North Carolina State University has won a grant of $2.7 for three years from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency to do research on extremophiles for biofuel production. Dr. Robert Kelly, the principal investigator, will be working with Dr. Michael Adams of University of Georgia to genetically engineer these extremophiles,specifically Metallosphaera sedula and Pyrococcus furiosus. Extremophiles are microbial organisms that live in high-temperature environments (75-100C) in freshwater and saltwater. They take CO2 from the environment and produce acetyl-coA, building blocks for biofuels. The researchers are interested in combining the two microbes’ abilities together to produce butanol. These microbes are also good candidates because their extremophile nature allow them to withstand the high temperatures of distillation process and the fact that they don’t require light allow facilities to be set up anywhere.
Another local energy initiative is also happening in Kentucky. The Kentucky Agrilcultural Development Board is allowing funds from Agricultural Development and American Recovery and Reinvestment Acts to assist energy-related projects by making $100,000 available. (Portsmouth Daily Times: Agricultural energy initiative announced, April 4, 2010)