The Search for the Ultimate Biofuel

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by Alex A. Kecskes

Biofuels are becoming the latest rage. Fuel Engineers are leaping over each other in the rush to create efficient bacterial factories to cheaply churn out novel biofuels.

Unlike conventional genetic engineering currently used to create antibiotics and protein drugs, synthetic biology involves altering the structure of some proteins, modifying the expression of others, and adding in genes from other organisms--to create an efficient microbial machine.

But making fuel is unlike making medicine. When pharmaceutical companies make drugs, they can usually charge premium prices for them. In contrast, new fuels must compete in price with petroleum.

Instead of trying to find better ways to make ethanol--the aim of most new biofuel efforts--companies are creating entirely novel biofuels. In some cases this involves designing new fuels from the ground up. Researchers are choosing compounds based on their energy content (ethanol has only 70 percent the energy of gasoline), their volatility (an ideal fuel shouldn't evaporate too fast), and their solubility in water (unlike ethanol, a water-insoluble fuel could be piped around the country like petroleum).

Using this approach, the list of available fuels is shorter as engineers evaluate compounds that can be produced in the lab and those that can be used in today's engines. In some cases, these compounds could be used for both diesel and jet fuel. Clearly, the search is on for the ultimate bio fuel and today's engineers are leading the charge for a more sustainable energy future.

For another perspective, check out this video:

Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients. Please see more of his blogs and view additional job postings on Nexxt.

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