Monday, January 7, 2008

UCLA Researchers Develop New Method for Production of Biofuels

UCLA University of California Los Angeles Biofuels ethanolResearchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a new method for producing next-generation biofuels by genetically modifying Escherichia coli bacteria to be an efficient biofuel synthesizer. The method could lead to mass production of these biofuels.

E Coli BiofuelThe strategy, developed by UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering James Liao, postdoctoral fellow Shota Atsumi and visiting professor Taizo Hanai, appears in the Jan. 3 issue of the journal Nature.

Concerns about long-term fossil fuel availability, coupled with environmental problems resulting from their production and use, have spurred increased efforts to synthesize biofuels from renewable resources.

This new strategy opens an unexplored frontier for biofuels production, both in coli and in other microorganisms.

UCLA has licensed the technology through an exclusive royalty-bearing license to Gevo Inc., a Pasadena, Calif.-based company founded in 2005 and dedicated to producing biofuels.

Liao has joined Gevo's scientific advisory board. In this role, he will continue to provide technical oversight and guidance during the commercial development of this technology.

The research was supported in part by the UCLA–Department of Energy Institute for Genomics and Proteomics and the UCLA–NASA Institute for Cell Mimetic Space Exploration (CMISE).

As America finally starts down the road of energy independence, sometimes kicking and screaming, research and technical know-how will play an important role in developing new fuels. Existing ethanol and biodiesel processes are better than they were just a few years ago. And the future ahead is bright indeed. So it is exciting to learn about new research that will let us get there sooner, faster, and better.

Source: UCLA

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