Can E. Coli Help Make Biofuel Production More Efficient?

 

In a breakthrough discovery announced today, scientists have found that a bit of E. coli could help put biofuel waste products to good use, and increase profits for the producers too.

Glycerin, a common biodiesel waste product, has become so abundant amid the rise in biofuel use that producers often have to pay to dispose of the chemical. Researchers at Rice University discovered that when combined, E. coli and glycerin produce succinate, a useful chemical that can be sold at a profit.[social_buttons]





Since one pound of glycerin is created for every 10 pounds of biodiesel, this research has the potential to greatly increase the efficiency and profitability of the biofuel industry. Last year, 450 million gallons of biodiesel were produced in the United States alone.

Succinate and its derivatives have a huge market in the United States, over $1.3 billion, according to the USDA. The chemical can be used to flavor food and drinks, as an ingredient for dyes and perfumes, and for some medical applications. Formate, another product of the E. coli and glycerin combo, is used as a preservative for animal feed.

“Biodiesel producers used to sell their leftover glycerin, but the rapid increase in biodiesel production has left them paying to get rid of it,” said Ramon Gonzalez, one of the researchers who led the study. “Our goal goes beyond using this discovery for a single process. We want to use the technology as a platform for the green production of a whole range of high-value products.”

The technology has been sold to Houston-based Glycos Biotechnologies, which plans to open a demonstration facility within the next year.

Photo Credit: Sflaw on Flickr under Creative Commons license.





About the Author

is primarily concerned with animal welfare, wildlife conservation, and environmental justice. As a freelance writer in San Francisco, he leads a deliberately simplistic and thrifty lifestyle, yet still can’t help gawking at the newest green gadgets and zero-emission concept cars.
  • LonnieB

    It never ceases to amaze me how many common products, vital to our modern life, were discovered by accident or were originally regarded as “waste” products.

    The list includes gasoline, nylon, teflon, post-it note pads and many, many more.

    Hopefully, this “by-product” product will make the list soon.

  • LonnieB

    It never ceases to amaze me how many common products, vital to our modern life, were discovered by accident or were originally regarded as “waste” products.

    The list includes gasoline, nylon, teflon, post-it note pads and many, many more.

    Hopefully, this “by-product” product will make the list soon.

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  • Jet

    hi.. this is interesting..

    yes there are so many common products than can unexpectedly help us in our daily living.. like making biodiesel.. I found this very interesting video..

    http://www.alternativefuelexperts.com/biodiesel/

  • Jet

    hi.. this is interesting..

    yes there are so many common products than can unexpectedly help us in our daily living.. like making biodiesel.. I found this very interesting video..

    http://www.alternativefuelexperts.com/biodiesel/