Show Details

Fatty Acid Fuels

December 31, 2012

Modifying the digestive process of bacteria could produce a useful fuel from common fats.



Fuels from fats.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Like humans, bacteria store energy in fatty acids.  A new techniques hijacks this process to create a potentially useful fuel.  University of Turku biochemist Patrik Jones and his colleagues allow E. Coli bacteria to create fatty acids from sugar, like glucose.

PATRIK JONES (University of Turku, Finland):

And at that point that’s where our pathway intervenes and redirects it.

They intercept the fatty acids and create fatty aldehydes, which in turn are converted into fuels like alcohols and alkanes. Jones says the resulting fuels won’t improve on pollution, but they’re from renewable sources that don’t require drilling.  And unlike ethanol, the resulting fuels could potentially replace gasoline altogether in conventional engines.  Jones says the system could also work with algae or other plant life, so instead of sugars, the starting ingredients would be sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.