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Engineers alter bacteria to increase yields of green biofuel

 

Narrator:           This is Science Today. Chemists at the University of California, Berkeley, have engineered an altered form of the E. coli bacteria to produce synthetic biofuel at about 10 times the rate of competing microbes. Michelle Chang, an assistant professor of chemistry, explains that the hope is to build something that can be used commercially.

Chang:              So, whether we can actually reach the yields and the performance milestones that are required to help make bio fuels work better than it does now.

Narrator:            E. coli has been used before to produce a chemical called n-butanol, which has been proposed as a substitute for diesel and gasoline. But yield was low, so Chang inserted different enzymes to essentially unblock an enzyme pathway that was causing the yield limitation.

Chang:               And so, that's what we did using biochemistry and choosing a different type of enzyme. It's not yet, you know, anywhere close to industrial process but we think that it fundamentally teaches us how to build up these pathways to make larger amounts of fuel.

Narrator:            For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.