The Escherichia coli bacteria, more commonly known as E. coli, have a bad reputation, and deservedly so. The bacterium is infamous for its strains that cause food poisoning, urinary tract infection, diarrhea, and many other illnesses. However, a group of British and Finnish scientists have developed a way to use E. coli to produce green energy.
In a new study that was published in Nature Communications earlier this week, Patrik Jones, a scientist at the Imperial College London, and colleagues, used E. coli bacteria to interrupt fatty acid synthesis, a process that converts fatty acids into cell membranes. By using special enzymes, the scientists were able redirect the fatty acids so that, rather than producing cell membranes, the bacteria produced renewable propane.
“Fatty acids are normally synthesized mainly in order to generate cell membranes but, by introducing a special enzyme, we can redirect it to instead release butyric acid, the precursor for propane,” Jones explained. “From there, only two more enzymes were needed in order to convert this smelly fatty acid into propane.”
“Propane, the bulk component of liquid petroleum gas, is an appealing target as it already has a global market. In addition, it is a gas under standard conditions, but can easily be liquefied,” the researchers wrote. “This allows the fuel to immediately separate from the biocatalytic process after synthesis, yet does not preclude energy-dense storage as a liquid.”
Read more about the story at IFL Science.