Propane is an appealing fuel, easily stored and already used worldwide, but it’s extracted from the finite supply of fossil fuels – or is it? Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Turku have engineered E. coli
bacteria that create engine-ready propane out of fatty acids, and in the future, maybe even sunlight.
Researchers at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum have created a bio-based solar cell capable of generating a continuous electrical current of several nanowatts per sq cm. The new approach avoids damage to the tapped photosynthetic cells, an issue that has plagued previous attempts to harness nature's "power plant."
Cyanobacteria, more commonly known as blue-green algae, can potentially be quite nasty. Some types of the bacteria produce toxins, which can poison humans or other animals that ingest water in which they’re present. Now, however, scientists are developing a portable sensor that will instantly alert users to the presence of the microbes in water samples.
Recently, scientists from the Swiss research institute EMPA
, along with colleagues from the University of Basel and the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois took a cue from photosynthesis and discovered that by coupling a light-harvesting plant protein with their specially designed electrode, they could substantially boost the efficiency of photo-electrochemical cells used to split water and produce hydrogen - a huge step forward in the search for clean, truly green power
Blooms of blue green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are not something you want occurring in your water system. When ingested, the microorganisms can cause rather unpopular reactions such as headaches, stomach aches, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Oh yes, and they can also kill people, not to mention livestock and wildlife that unsuspectingly drink from affected lakes and rivers. Fortunately, researchers may be on the way to a green (as opposed to blue-green) method of controlling the problem: low-frequency ultrasound.
It seems like every day, a new way of producing biofuel is being discovered. Within the past few years, we’ve reported on technology that harvests biofuel from garbage
, crop waste
, carbon dioxide
and wood-munching marine isopods
. Now, Arizona State University has announced a new development in the harvesting of biofuel from cyanobacteria microbes - ASU researchers Xinyao Liu and Roy Curtiss have genetically engineered bacteria that literally ooze the stuff out of their skins.
Engineers at the University of Michigan have developed a strip of paper infused with carbon nanotubes that can quickly and inexpensively detect a toxin produced by algae in drinking water. The paper strips perform 28 times faster than the complicated method most commonly used today to detect microcystin-LR, a chemical compound produced by the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) commonly found on nutrient-rich waters. Microcystin-LR is among the leading causes of biological water pollution and is believed to be the culprit of many mass poisonings going back to early human history.
A key factor is determining the eco-friendliness of any biofuel is how much energy is required to produce it. If the energy expended in producing it, which more often than not comes from fossil fuels, is too high then the environmental benefits of the fuel can be questionable. Researchers have now developed a process that removes a key obstacle to producing lower-cost, renewable biofuels by programming a photosynthetic microbe to self-destruct.