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Published on : Jun 27, 2019

Scientists have developed a new method to enhance the efficiency of biofuels and fatty acids into microbial diesel fuel. This process involves transformation of oleaginous microorganisms and glucose into microbial fuel with a single-step fermentative production.

Professor Sang Yup Lee and his team recently developed this strain. This strain showed the maximum efficiency in producing biodiesels and fatty acids ever reported. It is now expected to act as a new platform for the production of wide range of sustainable fatty-acid based products from carbon substrates such as glucose.

Our daily lives are widely influenced by fossil fuels. These fuels are now facing serious problems such as depletion in reserves and their contribution in global warming. This has thus given rise to the need for production of highly sustainable bio-renewable energy. Such energy offers a viable alternative to fossil fuels and numerous studies are already underway to bring these energy sources in the mainstream.

The research team headed by Professor Lee engineered Rhodococcus opacus – an oleaginous microorganism – to produce biodiesel from glucose. His team used this oil-accumulating microorganism as a host strain for an engineered E-coli to produce short-chain hydrocarbons. Previously, the study of using engineered E-coli to produce short-chain hydrocarbons that can then be used as gasoline, could not be commercialized due to lack of production efficiency. Use of oleaginous microorganism helped in maximizing the efficiency to accumulate oil. This accumulated oil serves as an antecedent for synthesizing fatty acids and other derivatives.

Next up, the metabolism of the strain is systematically analyzed and then redesigned to produce higher levels of fatty acids. These acids are then used to produce fatty-acid derived biodiesels called fatty acid ethyl long-chain hydrocarbons and esters. These acids show highest ever concentration by any microbial fermentation. It is now expected that these acid strains will play an important role in commercialization of microbial-based production of biodiesel.