Photo: Umberto Salvagnin (Flickr)
When most people fill their gas tanks, they think of fossil fuels and pumping oil from the ground. But many scientists around the country think bacteria.
Bacteria have a bad reputation because they are responsible for several human illnesses, but there are many thousands of species of bacteria.
Some of the most interesting species are cyanobacteria which used to be called blue green algae because of their color. These bacteria are naturally found in bodies of water, and like plants, use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into energy.
Ethanol And Quantity
Currently, we are using plants like corn to produce ethanol. It is a time consuming, expensive process that involves growing plants, transporting them, fermenting and processing them to get fuel. With bacteria, carbon dioxide can be converted directly into organic chemicals.
The only problem has been the quantity and type of fuels bacteria can produce.
Scientists are tackling that dilemma…
Some are developing strains that produce cellulose and sugars, and could produce the same amount of energy as corn using a fraction of the production energy and land area.
Increasing Carbon Dioxide
Others are splicing genes from other organisms into cyanobacteria to increase the amount of carbon dioxide fixing enzymes present in the cells. They have created strains that produce isobutyraldehyde gas that can be easily collected and converted into isobutanol.
Using bacteria to produce fuel is not only economical, it has two advantages. First, it recycles carbon dioxide which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, it uses solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuel. It is a win win situation.
In the future, there may be no need to worry about petroleum dependency or oil spills. Drivers will pull up to the pump and fill up on Cyanogas, the green alternative.