Monday, March 28, 2011

Commercial Bio-engineered fuel now feasible?

A US biotechnology company, Joule Unlimited, says it has invented a genetically engineered organism that simply secretes diesel fuel or ethanol wherever it finds sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company says it can manipulate the organism to produce the renewable fuels on demand at unprecedented rates, and can do it in facilities large and small at costs comparable to the cheapest fossil fuels.
What can it mean? “No less than ``energy independence'', Joule's website tells the world, even if the world's not quite convinced.
"If we're half right, this revolutionises the world's largest industry, which is the oil and gas industry." And if we're right, there's no reason why this technology can't change the world.''
Work to create fuel from solar energy has been done for decades, such as by making ethanol from corn or extracting fuel from algae. Philip Pienkos, scientist at National Renewable Energy Laboratory which is a competitor with Joules Unlimited, said Joule's technology is exciting but unproven, and their claims of efficiency are undercut by difficulties they could have just collecting the fuel their organism is producing. The reality will soon be demonstrated however as Joules breaks ground on a four-hectare demonstration facility this year. The company hopes to take off commercial operation within two years.[details at]

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