Eat seaweed, make fuel.

Well, that’s what happens if you are colony of genetically engineered E.coli bacteria!

Scientists have given the bacteria genes that make it convert complex sugars in the seaweed into alcohol, which can then be used as a fuel. Seaweed is plentiful, and grows naturally in our oceans. A very good thing indeed!

Mmm, seaweed! Germ food?

Mmm, seaweed! Germ food?

Up til now, biofuels like ethanol have been made by fermeting sugarcane and maize (no E.coli involved), but that means using valuable food crop land (not to mention, food crops!) to produce the alcohol. Very controversial of course… And in the case of maize, it actually takes more energy to grow and process the crop than the energy gained from the ethanol produced!

The next step in this synthetic biology research is working out how to make this seaweedy process scaleable: biofuel production would need billions of tonnes of seaweed. A pilot plant is being built in Chile- we will stay tuned to hear how it works!

In the meantime, try your hand at engineering E.coli in Bacto-Lab, one of Futurecade‘s 4 games about current and future science. Futurecade launches next week (we are incredibly excited!!) with background science notes for each game so you can use it in the classroom to engage your students in a really fun way, and get them talking about how science that shapes their lives.

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