Bacteria Based Biofuels Studied In Minnesota

Researchers at the University of Minnesota say they are one key step closer to being able to make renewable petroleum fuels from bacteria, sunlight, and carbon dioxide. The university’s experiments are funded, in part, by a $2.2 million grant from the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-energy (ARPA-e) program.

Janice Frias, who only recently earned her doctorate degree, found how to transform fatty acids produced by bacteria into ketones, which can be altered to make hydrocarbon fuels.

Photosynthetic Bacteria: Arizona State University

image via Arizona State University

University researchers have been using Synechococcus, a bacteria that coverts CO2 to sugars in sunlight, and feeding the sugars produced to another bacteria called Shewanella, which then in turn can make hydrocarbons, the main component of fossil fuels.

We’ve covered other research initiatives working with organisms to produce biofuels, including some that use beer, but the experiments at the University of Minnesota are different in several ways. Whatever the solution for renewable energy is in the future, let’s hope it comes fast. According the college’s release, experts in the energy fields say fossil fuels will be largely depleted in only 50 years.

Aaron Colter is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Purdue University, he has worked for the NCAA, Dark Horse Comics, Willamette Week, AOL, The Huffington Post, Top Shelf Productions, DigitalTrends, theMIX agency, SuicideGirls, EarthTechling, d'Errico Studios and others. He is also the co-founder of, a free record label, recording studio, and distribution service for independent musicians.

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