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One-Pot Method Developed for Making Biofuels

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 11:54AM

In general, simplifying processes is important for making them more common, as fewer steps can speed things up and reduce costs. When chemistry is involved though, it can be very difficult to remove certain steps, and in some cases impossible. Luckily researchers at Berkeley Lab have succeeded in greatly simplifying the process of creating advanced biofuels.

What has been created here is a one-pot method for making these biofuels, which means the ingredients can be loaded into a chemical reactor and the output will be the desired, end result, instead of an intermediary material. Normally producing these biofuels requires using ionic liquids, which are salts that are liquid at room temperature and work as solvents. These are needed to break apart the cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin of the plant matter before enzymes can get at the resulting sugars to produce biofuels. The issue has been that the ionic liquids damage the enzymes, so it has been necessary to add a step to remove them. What the Berkeley researchers have done is mutated a gene in E. coli to make it resilient to ionic liquids, and also given it the ability to create similarly resilient enzymes for creating biofuels.

Part of what makes this discovery important is that this strain of E. coli can be used as the base for other technologies to create advanced biofuels, such as jet fuel or its precursors.

Source: Berkeley Lab

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