Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The New Role of Microbes in Bio-Fuel Production

Microbes Biofuel Currently biofuel is produced from plants as well as microbes. The oils, carbohydrates or fats generated by the microbes or plants are refined to produce biofuel. This is a green and renewable energy that helps in conserving fossil-fuel usage. But a new research has led to a new discovery of getting the microbes to produce fuel from the proteins instead of utilizing the protein for its own growth. The research is being done at the premises of University of California in Los Angeles.

The focus of the experiment was to induce the microbes under the study to produce a specific kind of proteins rather than what they otherwise might be inclined to produce. This special protein can be refined in to biofuel. The task is to make the microbes produce only this kind of protein rather than utilizing it for their own growth and growth related activities as they otherwise do.

Different from prior practice
This kind of biofuel production is different from the traditional behavior of microbes where they use the protein only for growth. This is like tricking the microbes to deviate from that and produce fats or material that can be converted to biofuel. In the words of UCLA postdoctoral student and lead researcher, Yi-xin Huo -”We have to completely redirect the protein utilization system, which is one of the most highly-regulated systems in the cell.”

First attempt at protein utilization
This has been claimed as the first ever attempt to use the proteins as a source for generating energy. Until now the biofuel-producing algae has not made use of the protein like a carbon supply for biofuel. It was only used for growth. But now the scientists have tampered with usual nitrogen metabolism process and induced biorefining process and altered the metabolizing of nitrogen at the cellular level.

A fringe benefit
By this process, they are letting the cells to retain the nitrogen and take out just the ammonia. Once done with the biofuel production, the residue is a better kind of fertilizer thanks to the low nitrogen levels. This in turn will lessen any greenhouse emissions that happen during the fertilizer production. The new process will reprocess the nitrogen back and will help in maintaining a nitrogen neutral state and less harmful emissions during fertilizer production.

Future plans
The Nature Biotechnology Sunday issue has published the team’s findings. The team hopes that their findings will rewrite biofuel production by inundating the field with protein eating microbes which will generate fats and substances that can be converted into biofuel. The microbes will feed on proteins that are not fit for animal consumption and keep producing special proteins for biofuel conversion and later can become a better type if fertilizer with less nitrogen and nil harmful greenhouse emissions.

What do you think?

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