Alternative fuels are probably the only way the present world can save up energy sources for its future. With scientists from all over the world grilling to develop energy efficient fuels, biologists under Prof. Daniel G Nocera from Harvard University have genetically modified bacteria (Ralstron eutropha) that can excrete fuel!
The Bacteria And How It Produces Fuel
Ralston eutropha was first engineered to produce ATP (a compound that powers every activity in the cell). With inputs from Prof. Anthony Sinskey of MIT, the team added more genes to the bacteria in order to convert ATP to alcohol and cause it to excrete it, in the same process.
The bacteria produce three types of alcohols – isopropanol, isobutanol and isopentanol. These can be burnt directly to release energy. And for all those who think you can drink the alcohol produced. No. These are just bio-fuels.
So, the bacteria basically consume hydrogen, breathe in carbon-di-oxide and after a few processing stages, voila! Alcohol and biomass is excreted. Its efficiency to produce alcohol and biomass is 6.4% and 10.6% respectively. This is a great amount when compared to the 1% efficiency of plants to produce biomass.
The Probable Hitch
Though many might see this to be a ground breaking discovery that would help reduce the carbon footprint, Prof. Nocera makes it clear that it is not aimed to do so. The bacteria are carbon-neutral, which means that it returns the amount of carbon it takes in. But luckily, doesn’t cause an increase in carbon levels.
Nocera Wants To Come To India!
Now, I am not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but Prof. Nocera wants to develop his product in a country where 300 million of its population lacks access to electricity. Prof. Nocera says that he wants to invest in Indian scientists, in India, and make it in India (Modi must be thrilled!). The prime purpose of the bacteria was to provide renewable energy sources in areas that lacked an electric grid, and the professor believes that it is in India where he will not only get investors, but also a great market where his product can grow without competition.
Even though Prof. Nocera calls his innovation cool, and most definitely it does sound so, it makes one question the level the human race has stooped down to. Genetically engineering a bacterium and forcing it to produce biomass and alcohol, so that our requirements of renewable energy sources are served. Exploitation doesn’t really seem to have any limits.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.