Monday, February 14, 2011

Biofuel technologies vie to provide a sustainable supply of transportation fuels

Chemists, chemical engineers, and synthetic biologists have largely met the technical challenge of developing biofuels to supplement and then replace petroleum-derived transportation fuels in the coming decades. For biofuels to reach the U.S. market, however, these technologies have to fit into the existing transportation fuel infrastructure. Every major chemical and petrochemical firm has claimed a stake in the race to biofuel commercialization, as have dozens of start-up companies. “Because the energy industry is so large, there is room for everybody to play, as long as you can meet the economics,” says Berkeley Lab's Jay Keasling. “That is the great thing about this problem. Chemical technologies can be engineered to happen more quickly. It does take a long time to engineer the biology. But the beauty of biology is that it can work under dirtier conditions, and you can get the specific molecule you want under a range of conditions.” More>