UCLA Team Uses E. Coli To Produce Biofuel

When E. Coli hits the headlines, it’s usually bad news. When the bacteria shows up in someone’s burger and sends them to the hospital it is a matter of public safety to report on it. No wonder the nasty little bacteria gets a bad rap. It’s not an entirely evil bacterium, though. We’ve seen an instance of E. Coli doing good things before. This is another case where E.Coli is helping scientists make some big advances.

Researchers at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science report that they have found a way to coax E.Coli into helping them produce “normal butanol”, a biofuel that can be used with gasoline engines without making any modifications to the vehicles themselves.

E.coli Biofuel

image via Berkeley Lab

It was only a few days ago that  we reported the US Department of Energy had developed a way to produce butanol using Clostridium cellulolyticum, another type of bacteria. That breakthrough is still significant, but James C. Liao, UCLA’s Chancellor’s Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, indicated his research team’s new process using E. Coli provides some advantages because it requires less processing to yield butanol. “By using E. coli, we can make it produce only the compound with no other byproducts,” Liao said.

The research team now hopes to move the study to the industry level where the process can be scaled up to produce larger quantities of the biofuel.

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