biofuels bacteria

In Oman bacteria-induced biofuel is getting patented

Muscat,Oman Sultanate: Mohab bin Ali Al-Hinai, assistant professor in the biology department of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), has obtained a patent for his research on bacteria that contributes to the production of biofuels.

Al-Hinai said the idea of producing biofuels by bacteria was a development of ‘acetobutylicum clostridium’ bacteria which is the fastest in its group in the production of organic materials usable as biofuels, according to Oman News Agency.

He added that the significance of the said bacteria is that it produces biofuels from plants that contain fiber and not from components of staple foods for human consumption such as maize, wheat, and sugarcane.

He affirmed that the most significant challenges are to find a way to make this invention economically feasible. He added that he is currently working on the development of research on biofuels from agricultural waste and the smallest organisms found in the Omani environment.

  • Why Bacteria-based biofuels?

By tweaking the smallest units of life, scientists are making bigger gains in producing alternative and renewable energy, with recent efforts aimed at molecule-level controls and promoting fractal growth patterns to create different fuels and improve efficiencies.

Bacteria, which range from 0.5 to 5 microns in size, perform functions that can be exploited, enhanced and modified to produce fuels. As they move, breathe, eat and reproduce, bacteria produce byproducts like ethanol and hydrogen while feeding on simple sugars, starches and sunlight. The cells themselves can also be harvested for biodiesel precursors.

The organisms may be used to produce fuels directly from biomass, including cellulosic biomass.  When all of the steps of digestion and fermentation are combined, it is called consolidated bioprocessing.  The organisms available for consolidated bioprocessing to produce cellulosic ethanol do not produce high concentrations of the ethanol, and therefore it isn’t cost effective to use them according to Biofuels Digest.

Even, back now in 2012, researchers genetically modified E. coli bacteria to convert sugar into an oil that is almost identical to conventional diesel.

While petrol and diesel release carbon dioxide that has been stored deep within the Earth, biofuels are said to be carbon neutral because they release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as the plants they are made from absorbed.

However, the energy it takes to grow and process the crops needed for biofuels also should be taken into account, as this adds to their “carbon footprint”.

A report by Chatham House said biofuels were expensive and worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

  • Sources: Oman News Agency, Biofuels Digest, CHatman House, Pnas.org
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