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Will Airplanes Powered By Bacteria Ever Take Off?

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This has been a big week for the U.S. domestic airline industry and its embrace of environmentally-friendly biofuels.

On Monday, a United Airlines jet completed the first-ever biofuel-powered commercial flight in the U.S. On Wednesday, Alaska Airlines is launching the first of 75 flights powered by a 20% biofuel blend concocted from recycled cooking oil. The problem is that the cost of these biofuels is so prohibitively expensive -- nearly six times the cost of regular jet fuel -ā€“ that there are no concrete plans to continue these experiments.

But what if there were a way to generate cheap bioefuels for the airline transportation industry via synthetic biology, essentially re-engineering E. coli bacteria so that they become a source of cheap, sustainable fuel?

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