Scientists from the University of Exeter and Shell have found a way to make bacteria produce diesel on demand.
A special strain of the E. Coli bacteria has been manipulated by scientists to produce diesel on demand. E. Coli naturally turns sugars into fat in order to build cell membranes, and it is this property that the scientists have made use of. Synthetic fuel oil molecules can be produced in the same way, and the end product is virtually identical to the diesel we get from the ground. Theoretically, this could solve our fossil fuel problems without the need for the extensive modifications to our infrastructure that would be needed if we switched to conventional biofuels.
John Love, lead researcher on the project
Exeter University's Prof. John Love explains that this was a goal in the research: "Producing a commercial biofuel that can be used without needing to modify vehicles has been the goal of this project from the outset. Replacing conventional diesel with a carbon neutral biofuel in commercial volumes would be a tremendous step towards meeting our target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”
Unfortunately, bacteria work on a small scale, and commercializing this method of diesel production is a massive hurdle to get past. Still, it's a step in the right direction: Rob Lee, who works at Shell Projects and Technology ,had the following to say: “We are proud of the work being done by Exeter in using advanced biotechnologies to create the specific hydrocarbon molecules that we know will continue to be in high demand in the future. While the technology still faces several hurdles to commercialization, by exploring this new method of creating biofuel, along with other intelligent technologies, we hope they could help us to meet the challenges of limiting the rise in carbon dioxide emissions while responding to the growing global requirement for transport fuel."