Grass To Gas

Monday, January 2, 2012 - 10:05am

Biofuel breakthrough transforms organic matter into fuel.

Researchers with the Joint Bio-Energy Institute have made a breakthrough in the development of bio-fuels.

Greg Bokinsky, the project's lead researcher, and his colleagues have engineered bacteria in such a way that you give it plants to eat and it will give you fuel.

They've basically streamlined a multi-step process into a single step.

"You can cut costs in half or maybe down to a quarter of what the traditional methods would cost you," Bokinsky says.

What's more, Bokinksy found his bacteria worked with any number of plants.

Right now, most of the biofuel in this country is produced using corn, but using a food crop for fuel is far from ideal.

Anytime the need for either one goes up, so does the price for both.

Bokinsky found his programmed bacteria worked on something called switchgrass, a plant common in much of the country.

It also worked on eucalyptus, and perhaps most importantly, yard waste.

"Right now we're diverting all this kind of stuff like paper and cardboard waste into landfills where that could really be turned into biofuels perhaps in the future," he says.

So, what is the miracle bacteria, that is showing so much potential?

It's one you have heard of before, but rarely in a positive light.

It's E. coli, the same bacteria that, if it gets into our food supply has the power to sicken or even kill us.

Researchers say their strain is so different and so tame, it's use poses no risk, and E. coli might not end up being the best bacteria for the job.

Figuring that out, as well as a way to make the process more efficient and able to be done a large scale all lies ahead.

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