The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) research team believes that they have found a great biosynthetic substitute for Number2 (D2) diesel fuel: bisabolane. A member of the terpene class, bisabolane is a chemical found in plants commonly used for fragrances. This is the first time bisabolane is being considered as an alternative fuel source. So what urged the JBEI scientists to work on bisabolane?
The answer is simple; bisabolane and D2 diesel shared properties. In particular, the scientists noted that the cyclic chemical structure of bisabolane made it more compatible as a fuel. Unlike most other biofuels that originate from sugars, bisabolane is made in a very distinct way. The recipe consists of developing the precursor of bisabolane, bisabolene, using two engineered microbes, a bacteria and a yeast. The team used biosynthesis to extract pure bisabolene from microbial culture. Bisabolene was then hydrogenated to bisabolane. By using engineered microbes, bisabolane promises to be cost-effective for mass production.
Moreover, bisabolane is compatible with current diesel engines. Despite its great advantages, this new biofuel is still being evaluated for its fuel properties. Scientists must also consider the effect of the byproducts of hydrogenating bisabolane, which include farnesane and aromatized bisabolane.
With the exciting new discovery of bisabolane as a biofuel and more to come, we can be sure that JBEI’s research will advance the biofuel industry.
Discussion question: What are the advantages of using microbes in biofuel making process? Disadvantages?
News Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110927134254.htm
Research Article: http://www.lbl.gov/Tech-Transfer/publications/2837pub2.pdf
Image source: Berkeley National Laboratory
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