Gut bacteria can produce diesel fuel

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British researchers publish study on genetically modified intestinal bacteria

Gut bacteria as producers of diesel fuel? British researchers from the University of Exeter have now found out that this is possible in principle in laboratory tests and published their results in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences". According to this, genetically modified Escherichia coli bacteria (E coli bacteria) could produce a fuel that could be used immediately - without, for example, adapting the engines.

Bacteria process free fatty acids into hydrocarbons
The basis for the production of the fuel is formed by free fatty acids that can be processed by the intestinal bacteria into hydrocarbons, which in turn are made of diesel fuel - provided that these are genetically modified. For this purpose, the scientists led by Thomas Howard changed the genome of Escherichia coli bacteria by introducing genes of different bacteria into them and then cultivated the modified bacteria in a first step in a mixture of fatty acids. The bacteria then reacted with the production of hydrocarbons or so-called "alkanes" and "alkenes" - exactly those contained in conventional diesel. In a further step, the genetic modification of the metabolism of Escherichia coli bacteria also followed - with the aim that the bacteria can convert their own fatty acids.

Researchers hope for great progress towards reducing emissions With the project, the researchers want to make great progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions by replacing conventional diesel with a carbon-neutral biofuel, which means 80 percent less emissions by 2050: "It From the start, our goal was to produce a commercial biofuel that can be used without having to adapt the vehicles, ”the researchers said in the article.

The results of the British researchers could actually be a major breakthrough, because the biofuels previously available usually have to be refined after production. "Although biofuels are the immediate, practical solution for reducing dependence on fossil hydrocarbons, the current biofuels (biodiesel and alcohols) require considerable purification processes and are not fully compatible with modern, mass-market internal combustion engines," the researchers continued.

Current biofuels are usually not suitable for common engines. Accordingly, current biofuels are often not usable in common engines or would only be used as an admixture to the fossil fuels petrol, diesel and natural gas. The scientists therefore expect a lot from the diesel fuel from intestinal bacteria: "The global energy demand is increasing and having a fuel that is independent of oil price fluctuations and political instability is an increasingly attractive prospect." (Nr)

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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