EU researchers develop production process for climate friendly engine-ready fuel
Turku/Freiburg – A EU consortium of 9 partners has won a EUR3.7m fund over 4 years for designing a bacterial process that delivers pure autogaz. The DirectFuel (Direct biological conversion of solar energy to volatile hydrocarbon fuels by engineered cyanobacteria) project aims to develop cyanobacteria that catalyze direct conversion of solar energy and carbon dioxide to the engine-ready fuel propane. In order to directly capture solar energy to drive fuel biosynthesis, the synthetic pathways are assembled in the photosynthetic model organism Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. The researchers, headed by Prof Dr. Wolfgang Hess (University Freiburg) and coordinated by researchers at University of Turku, will optimize native host metabolism to deliver reducing energy and metabolic precursors to the synthetic pathways with maximum metabolic flux by means of synthetic biology/metabolic engineering. The biological production process will yield several high value end products such as ethylene and short-chain n-alkanes ethane and propane. The process appears promising as propane does not need to be extracted from the bacteria and because it is an established product that has been used for some 40 years (although up to now from fossil not biological resources). Currently propane fuel is offered at thousands of petrol stations throughout Europe.