Engineered bacteria is beginning to streamline biofuel productions. The bacteria being used is a strain of E. coli that has been adapted to withstand liquid salt solutions used for breaking down plant matter into sugars. As these cells adapt better to this type of environment, biofuel processing will no longer need to remove the liquid salts from the mixture before introducing the bacteria, the process would be a “one pot method.”
Yields are currently significantly lower as the tests are using less pure sugar than other processes. Further refining of the E. coli strain will hopefully boost the returns seen from this vastly easier method.
Currently, we have only engineered the strain to digest cellulose so it can use the resulting glucose to grow and make the biofuel,” explains Mukhopadhyay. “We can also engineer it to digest hemicellulose, another large component of plant biomass so that it can use the resulting xylose for growth and production also!”
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