Engineered E. coli can convert cell wall component into ethanol
Seaweed has long made biofuel prospectors drool, but they hadn’t figured out how to efficiently chew through the stuff — until now. Researchers have engineered a bacterium that can break down and digest seaweed’s gummy cell walls to yield ethanol and other useful compounds. If scientists can make the process work at larger scales, seaweed could soon be a serious contender as a source of renewable fuel.
The new research “makes a pretty large leap forward,” says metabolic engineer Hal Alper of the University of Texas at Austin. Unlike corn and many other biofuel feedstocks, seaweed doesn’t need arable land, fertilizer or freshwater. If seaweed can be efficiently m