Last update: 09.07.2011
Engineered organisms for making cheap sugar
Source : technologyreview.com
In a bid to make biofuels cheaper, a startup called Proterro, based in Princeton, New Jersey, is developing a way to cut the cost of making sugar, a basic building block for ethanol. The company is engineering photosynthetic microorganisms to secrete large amounts of sugar, and it is designing a bioreactor for growing the organisms using small amounts of water. Photosynthetic microorganisms, such as algae, are usually prized for their ability to produce oils. Proterro chose to focus on sugar production because that's the source for biofuel ethanol, and it's also the starting point for new processes for making other types of biofuels. Today, almost all of the sugar for biofuels is made from corn or sugarcane, and several companies are developing processes for making sugar from abundant cellulosic materials such as grass and wood chips. But as a feedstock to make biofuels, "sugar is still too expensive", says Kef Kasdin, Proterro's CEO. Only sugar from sugarcane is cheap enough to make economic sense, and that can only be grown inexpensively in some locations, such as Brazil.
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28 March 2011 |
United States & Canada
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