Scientists build bioreactors and make bacteria to advance biofuel research


Researchers at the University of Kent’s School of Biosciences have designed and built equipment that can be used to study the production of bacterial biofuels at a fraction of the cost of commercial systems. This technology was then used to demonstrate that bacterial genetic engineering could be used to improve biofuel production.

Commercial equipment used to study biofuel-producing bacteria can be prohibitively expensive, which prompted the team to build their own bioreactors accessible to most research labs. The researchers then used this equipment to verify that one of their genetically modified variants of Clostridium bacteria could produce the biofuel butanol faster.

These research results, which have been published in journals Access Microbiology and Microbial biotechnology, reveal that a subtle modification of a single gene can lead to remarkable changes in the way sugars are converted into biofuel products.

This work is expected to improve accessibility to cheaper bioreactors to stimulate broader research into biofuel production using natural and engineered bacteria.

Corresponding author Dr Mark Shepherd, Lecturer in Microbial Chemistry at Kent, said: “These exciting developments will help advance research into the production of bacterial biofuels, and we are particularly excited to use our expertise to optimize processes that can convert waste from food and agriculture into biofuels that are greener alternatives to fossil fuels.

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Material provided by University of Kent. Original written by Gary Hughes. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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