Engineering Microbes for Sustainable Manufacturing and Better Biofuels
by Ysabel Yates (Renewable Energy World) …Using microbes to create useful products is nothing new. Humans have been doing it for centuries to bake bread or brew alcohol, for example. More recent techniques have employed microbes in green technology, where they are used in the production of biofuels and in the generation of electricity from waste.
…Here are three recent examples of how bioengineering microbes could create better biofuels, more sustainable manufacturing, and even the possibility of settlements on Mars.
…Using a non-food feedstock to create biofuels is better both environmentally and economically, which is why researchers from Iowa State University are working to turn corn stalks and sawdust into ethanol.
The process involves heating the feedstock until it becomes a sugar-rich bio oil, then unleashing microbes to feed on the oil and produce ethanol as a by-product. Unfortunately, the microbes have a bad reaction to some of the compounds in the oil, which prevents them from efficiently digesting it.
To work around this, the team is using a technique called directed evolution.