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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bacteria may power cars, homes

E Coli, the bacteria synonymous with food poisoning and product recalls, can be used as a future source of energy to power cars and homes, says a professor in Texas Artie McFerrin University. After genetically modifying the bacteria, the professor, from the Department of Chemical Engineering, has "tweaked" a strain of E. Coli so that it produces substantial amounts of hydrogen. Specifically, the new strain produces 140 times more hydrogen than is created in a naturally occurring process. The finding can prove to be a significant stepping-stone on the path to the hydrogen-based economy.

In the study, the research team selectively deleted six specific genes in E Coli's DNA and transformed the bacterium into a mini hydrogen-producing factory that is powered by sugar, by enhancing the bacteria's naturally occurring glucose-conversion process on a massive scale. With sugar as its main power source, this strain of E Coli can now take advantage of existing and ever-expanding scientific processes aimed at producing sugar from certain crops such as corn. The study is published in Microbial Biotechnology.

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