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Microbe could make fuel from exhaust

Scientists say a microbe with an appetite for carbon monoxide could provide a cheap way to produce fuel from car exhaust.

Azotobacter vinelandii, a microbe found around the roots of various food plants, creates an enzyme -- vanadium nitrogenase -- that normally produces ammonia from nitrogen, Britain's Daily Telegraph reports.

But it has been discovered it can also create propane out of carbon monoxide, a common byproduct of industrial processes.

Eventually the enzyme might be tweaked so instead of making simple molecules of propane, it could create the more complex molecules of gasoline, says Markus Ribbe, a scientist at the University of California, Irvine.

Since cars produce carbon monoxide in their exhausts through incomplete combustion, in the future it might be possible to partly fuel cars off their own fumes, researchers say.

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