Imagine a bacteria that could not only suck the excess CO2 out of the air, but turn that waste gas into a clean-burning biofuel for cars. If the current research on genetically-engineered bacteria goes to plan at MIT, these wonder creatures could help solve our energy and climate woes.
According to Livescience, if these creatures can be scaled to industrial production levels, producing biofuels from a living organism would become 10 times more efficient.
Researchers swapped out the genes of the R. eutropha bacterium so that it can create isobutanol - an alcohol that can replace or blend with gasoline used by vehicles.
The natural bacteria usually stores carbon by creating carbon polymers similar to petroleum-based plastics. Brigham and his colleagues - Jingnan Lu, Claudia Gai and Anthony Sinskey - managed to remove several genes while adding another organism's gene so that the bacteria made isobutanol rather than the carbon polymer.
Because the bacteria uses carbon dioxide (along with hydrogen) to grow, researchers hope they'll be able to give it the ability directly convert the CO2 it absorbs, which would have huge, obvious environmental implications.
But before this bacteria changes the world, scientists must first get it out of the lab and into the real world. The question of whether or not they can scale the organism remains to be answered. Here's hoping it will happen. [MIT via Livescience]