Plant waste has long been seen as a possible source of sustainable biofuels, and new research out of Rice University could unlock some of the energy that scientists say lies waiting in organic material.
According to materials provided by Rice, bioengineer Ka-Yiu San and his lab have developed a way to turn plant waste into fatty acid, which can then be further converted into fuel. The key is a genetically modified strain of the E. coli bacteria which they created by combining traits from several other strains. The scientists fed inedible cellulose from sorghum to the bacteria, which converts the sugar-heavy hydrolysate from the plants into fatty acids. These fatty acids could somedaybe converted into synthetic diesel fuel or oil-like lubricants, say the researchers.