Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Diesel Fuel from Bug Excrement

The Times reports that scientists from LS9 in California have genetically altered small bugs so that when they feed on agricultural waste they excrete crude oil. The oil excreted is carbon negative, meaning it emits fewer carbon emissions as crude oil than it did as agricultural waste.

The bugs are bacteria from industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli. The fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation are molecularly very close to crude oil. Through genetic modification of the DNA, they can easily change the fermentation process to create crude oil. The process is "the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready."

Read the full story in The Times Online.

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