Saturday, January 31, 2015

Flashback on technology of LS9

A flashback from New Scientist on 7 August 2010, from the article -- A replacement for crude oil from engineered bacteria --


GENETICALLY modified bacteria that munch on sugar to produce feedstock for refineries could bring down the cost of switching to cleaner energy.
Existing biodiesel fuels are produced from crops grown for the purpose or from waste cooking fat. While they can be fed directly into car and truck engines, their make-up is somewhat variable. As a result, they cannot be processed by existing refineries, and so require a separate production and distribution network. 

Efforts to produce "drop-in" biofuels whose chemical constituents are so well defined that they can added into the existing fuel infrastructure at any point have so far proved prohibitively expensive, says Steve del Cardayre at biofuel developer LS9 in San Francisco.


When the [LS9] team then inserted these genes into a strain of Escherichia coli –; chosen because it breeds readily in laboratory conditions and so is a good candidate for industrial-scale processes –; they found that it began making enzymes that produced alkanes (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1187936). "People have looked for these genes for over 20 years," del Cardayre says
"We have a one-step process to make alkane," says Andreas Schirmer, who led the research at LS9, and it should work on an industrial scale.
Guy Barker, a bio-energy researcher at the University of Warwick in the UK, says the work is a step in the right direction. "It provides an alternative to producing ethanol as an end point for future-generation biofuels," he says. Alkanes have a higher calorific value than ethanol, meaning drivers will get improved fuel economy, he adds. The key will be to make the bacteria as productive when fed on second-generation, cellulose-based sources such as grasses and plant waste, which do not compete for land with food crops.

The Renewable Energy Group Inc. acquired the assets of LS9 in around January 2014.


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