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E.Coli to the Rescue

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E coli Bacteria close up

E.Coli to the rescue – probably one of the less likely phrases you might expect to come across. Universally it has quite rightly always been considered one of Nature’s real bad guys, but in the same way that John McVicar became a force for good, British and Finnish scientists have been using E.Coli to create renewable biofuel. They have been able to generate renewable propane using a strain of the bacteria commonly found in human intestines, but the matter will need considerably more work to progress to the next step. Although the results are regarded as ‘proof of concept’, and the fuel generated is capable of being used in an engine, the amounts produced are tiny. The results are, however, proof that a fuel previously accessible only from fossil reserves can be produced in an alternative and renewable manner. The scientists behind the research suggest that such alternatives could possibly complement and then eventually replace fossil fuels such as diesel, petrol, natural gas and jet fuel. The fuel is produced by interrupting a process which normally turns fatty cells into membranes, and using the process to create fuel instead of cell membranes. The ultimate goal is to create photosynthetic bacteria which will be capable of producing fuel from solar energy. The research follows another recent innovation which showed that tobacco with the nicotine removed could be used as an aviation fuel. This is my kind of science, although I find the thought of housing large reserves of E.Coli only marginally less worrying than some other current so-called solutions to the energy crisis, including fracking and nuclear power.

About the Author:

Paul Melnyczuk is editor of Home Farmer, and together with Ruth Tott is the founder of the company. His Ukrainian father and Austrian mother came over in the 1950s, and he was raised near Accrington (of Stanley fame) in Lancashire. With a degree in European Literature and a year spent living in Sweden, and a further 2 years in the Sudan, his background is rich and varied.

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