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August 12, 2011 / David Bleeker

Weekend Edition: Hacked Fat-Burning Cycle Makes Bacteria Pump Biofuel

Time to decompress from the week with a little Wired Science science news…

The majority of plant matter we have available to produce biofuels comes in the form of cellulose, a long polymer of sugars. It’s easiest to convert this material to ethanol, but that creates its own problems: Ethanol is less energy dense than petroleum-based fuels, and most vehicles on the road can’t burn more than a 15 percent mix of ethanol and standard gasoline.

These disadvantages have led a number of labs to look into ways of using a cellulose feedstock to produce something more like standard fuels. In yesterday’s Nature, researchers proposed a clever way of doing this: take the biochemical pathway that normally burns fat and run it in reverse. [read more]



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  1. Eric / Aug 13 2011 2:39 am

    I’ve heard of this awhile ago. I think it’s a pretty good idea to allow nature to produce biofuel rather than extracting the limited resources we have. I’ve not a car owner, but I think alternatives fuels of any sort may help us (considering the $1.30 per gallon is pretty outrageous).

    Also I think they’re doing some work in a algae reactor or something. I remember awhile back but not sure where I found the article.

    • David Bleeker / Aug 13 2011 7:40 am

      $1.30 per gallon? In Southern California we are paying close to $4.00! I am going to order my own critter colony when this goes mainstream. 🙂

  2. Eric / Aug 18 2011 1:26 pm

    No, per litre (which is about 0.26 gallons). So looking at it imperially, it’s about 6.50 Canadian dollars. It’s worse in winter and in a crowded city where it’s somewhat hard to find a gas station.

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