E. coli Helps Make Ethanol

John Davis

Researchers in California are looking at turning a bacteria that is deadly for humans into biofuels… which are decidedly healthier for people and the planet.

This story from Los Angeles’ CBS 2 says work at UCLA is looking at using E. coli to make ethanol:

Scientists at UCLA have for the first time produced E. coli that can generate alcohol with five carbon atoms per molecule, instead of the normal two or three. Alcohol molecules with eight carbon atoms may also be possible, they report in this month’s edition of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

liaoLead scientist James Liao, at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, says the E. coli will be able to create biofuels that reduce pollution and deliver much-more energy per molecule than traditional biofuels like Ethanol.

“We wanted to create larger, longer-chain molecules because they contain more energy,” the team wrote in the science journal. “This is significant in the production of gasoline and even jet fuel.”

The new E. Coli bugs would be unleashed on organic material, much like Ethanol is produced from corn. But Ethanol has only two carbon atoms per molecule, and the greater the number of carbon atoms from the bacteria will increase the density of the biofuel, the UCLA team said.

Interestingly, this same E. coli often shuts down West Coast beaches. Now, it could be used to make that drive to the beach a little greener.

Ethanol, News