Bacteria can make branched longer chain alcohols

Nature reports that researchers have genetically modified bacteria to produce waste products that are high in branched long-chain alcohols. These have higher octane numbers than conventional ethanol and find it harder to absorb water than shorter chain alcohols. The work was done by Professor James C. Liao, UCLA Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His team modified e coli bacteria to produce The research team modified key pathways in E. coli to produce several higher-chain alcohols from glucose, a renewable carbon source, including isobutanol, 1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol.

“These alcohols are typically trace byproducts in fermentation,” Liao said. “To modify an organism to produce these compounds usually results in toxicity in the cell. We bypassed this difficulty by leveraging the native metabolic networks in E. coli but altered its intracellular chemistry using genetic engineering to produce these alcohols.”

The last point is made by proponents of butanol as an alternative fuel source, and is worth making given the shocking state of much of the storage facilities at gas stations in the US. As ever questions remain about rates and scalability, but it is inteteresting.

Hattip to Green Fuel

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