Biofuel Research Initiative Combines Industry and Academia

Arizona State University (ASU) has announced a significant research partnership with energy company BP and Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) to develop a renewable source of biofuel.

The research effort focuses on using a specially optimized photosynthetic bacterium to produce biodiesel, a sustainable high-energy fuel that can be used in conventional engines. According to the Biodesign Institute at ASU, the use of renewable, photosynthetic bacteria in the production of biofuel eliminates the need for costly and complex processing. In addition, the large-scale microbial cultivation, using only solar energy and an environmentally controlled production facility, can be set up on arid land.

The renewable technology holds significant promise, the institute says, in that is has an estimated high biomass-to-fuel yield. Furthermore, because the bacteria are dependent upon carbon dioxide for growth, a more environmentally friendly and potentially carbon neutral energy source is feasible. The small footprint needed for bacterial biofuel production allows the technology to be placed adjacent to power generating stations and the utilization of flue gas as a carbon source.

“This project illustrates the type of high impact research that is possible when state, industry and academic leaders converge on an urgent societal problem,” said George Poste, director of the Biodesign Institute at ASU. “We are delighted to be part of an international research effort with BP and SFAz to reduce our transportation economy’s dependency on oil and develop cleaner, sustainable sources of energy.”

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