Bacteria can now produce gasoline identical to what we pull out of the ground
A team of British scientists engineer a strain of E. coli that can turn waste into gasoline.
It isn't a new concept, really. Scientists have been creating gasoline-like substances from genetically modified bacteria for years.
These organic creations have had some flaws, though. While they could be burned in a normal internal combustion engine, the differences between standard gas and the bacteria-created gas caused engines to prematurely gum up, making them imperfect gasoline replacements.
That's all changed now as one John Love from the University of Exeter in the UK has created a strain of E. coli that can create gasoline that is "chemically and structurally identical to those found in commercial fuel,” according to a report in New Scientist.
Love and his team "took genes from the camphor tree, soil bacteria and blue-green algae and spliced them into DNA from Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria.” Love's team then fed the E. coli glucose from plant matter. The end result of the natural conversion process was gasoline.
The next hurdle Love and his team must overcome: figuring out how to recreate this process on a massive scale. To do so, the team will have to alter the bacteria to feed on a cheaper, less impactful and ideally abundant resource like animal manure.
Beyond the obvious benefits of turning what would normally be considered a waste product into food for gasoline, altering the bacteria to feed on non-plant matter would save the land and environmental impact of growing plants specifically for gasoline production.
Worried this sort of technology will never see the light of day? Think again, a research arm of the Shell oil company in part funded the study so there's good chance it'll move forward in the near future.