My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How Imperial College London Escherichia Coli makes Propane and Biodiesel from Cooking Oil

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Imperial College London Escherichia Coli makes Propane and Biodiesel from Cooking Oil

“This opens up possibilities for future sustainable production of renewable fuels that at first could complement, and thereafter replace fossil fuels like diesel, petrol, natural gas and jet fuel,”

Dr Patrik Jones of Imperial College London on the use of Genetically Modified Escherichia Coli Bacteria to make Propane

Since its genome was decoded, genetically Modified Escherichia Coli Bacteria can be used to make all kinds of things.

The coolest use that I know is to make Spider Silk, pioneered by Dr. My Hedhammar of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Director of R&D at Spiber Technologies in Uppsala as described in my blog article entitledUSTAR produces Spider Silk From Transgenic Silkworms and Japanese Spiber from Transgenic Escherichia Coli Bacteria - Spider Silk's big trend in Fabrics which means I’m Out Ciara and Nikki Minaj Style”.

But I’ve found yet another more practical use; making Propane Fuel as stated in the article “Biofuels: E Coli Modified To Make Engine-Ready Propane”, published 9/05/2014 @ 2:14PM by Paul Rodgers, Forbes Magazine

This is the result of collaboration between the Imperial University College London and University of Turku led by Dr Patrik Jones of the Imperial University College London achieved this feat by modifying how the Escherichia Coli converts Fatty Acids into cellular membranes as reported in “Bacteria May Provide the Key to Sustainable Energy”, published 02 September 2014 by Dr. Patrik R. Jones et al, University of Turku.

The full team that worked on this groundbreaking project is as follows:

1.      Dr Patrik Jones of the Imperial University College
2.      Dr. Pauli Kallio of the University of Turku’s Department of Biochemistry
3.      Dr. Andras Pasztor of the University of Turku’s Department of Biochemistry
4.      Dr. Kati Thiel of the University of Turku’s Department of Biochemistry
5.      Dr. Kalim Akhtar of University College London

With that many PhD this discovery better be good and is certainly appears to be, based on their work published in the Journal Nature Communications as stated in “An engineered pathway for the biosynthesis of renewable propane”, published 02 September 2014 by Dr. Patrik R. Jones et al, NATURE COMMUNICATIONS has huge implications as to how Propane Fuel can be produced.

Potentially this could be used to break down Oils form any Organic Source, such as dead animals or even Recycled Cooking Oil and convert it into Propane for Generators and even cooking. It's groundbreaking on the same level as the EU (European Union)-backed SOLAR-JET Project.

Back in May 2014 they'd discovered a way to convert Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into SynGas and then Kerosene via the Fischer–Tropsch Process as explained in my blog article entitledSOLAR-JET Project create Kerosene from Syngas - How Fresnel Lens in SynGas for Fischer–Tropsch Process means Fossil Fuel a Renewable Resource by 2017”.

So how does it work? It’s really as simple as 1-2-3!

Escherichia Coli makes Propane - Waste Cooking Oil can be used to Cook more Food

The Researchers genetically modified the Escherichia Coli with three (3) new enzymes:

1.      Thioesterase that breaks down fatty Acids to butyric acid, an organic acid with a very bad odour.
2.      CAR (carboxylic acid reductase) turned this butyric acid into butyraldehyde
3.      ADO (aldehyde-deformylating oxygenase) turns butyraldehyde into Propane

Because the Escherichia Coli Bacteria needs energy to do its work, feeding it with the very fatty acids it was to convert to fuel wasn't an option. Thus they had to artificially stimulate it using electricity, effectively adding that Frankenstein touch to this project. 

The output of Propane Gas from the Genetically modified Escherichia Coli is miniscule and being an organic reactor, takes awhile to build up significant volume, making this definitely not ready for prime time, possibly achievable in the next 10 years, to quote Lead Researcher on the Project Dr Patrik Jones of the Imperial University College: “We don’t have a full grasp of exactly how the fuel molecules are made, so we are now trying to find out exactly how this process unfolds. I hope that over the next five to ten years we will be able to achieve commercially viable processes”.

One way of doing that is using genetically modified Cyanobacteria, which can process Sunlight in a photosynthetic process. This would eliminate the need for electrical stimulation as it can use the Sunlight as an energy source.

Renewable Cooking Oil– How Waste Cooking Oil is recycled into Propane ad infinitum

This Genetically modified Escherichia Coli could convert this Waste Cooking Oil to Propane for direct use in the kitchen for cooking without the need to build a biodigester and use methanobacter Bacteria to anaerobically decompose this Waste Cooking Oil into Propane.

It's effectively a biochemistry solution to the same problem that University of the West indies Lecturer, Dr. Michael Coley in collaboration with a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) YCWJ (Youth Crime Watch Jamaica) is working on, which is to convert Waste Cooking Oil into BioDiesel as described in my blog article entitledUWI and YCWJ team up to Recycle Waste Cooking Oil - Yendi Phillipps on How to make National Bio-Diesel Production from Waste Cooking Oil Insidious Chapter 2”.

Like Dr. Michael Coley's Project in the Department of Chemistry, practicality is part of the reason why Dr Patrik Jones of the Imperial University College chose to do his research into making Genetically modified Escherichia Coli do this, quote: “We chose Propane because it can be separated from the natural process with minimal energy and it will be compatible with the existing infrastructure for easy use”.

That’s right folks!

When this becomes commercial, you can literally use Waste Cooking Oil to make the very same BioDiesel to drive your vehicle and Propane Gas to cook the very same food, generating more Waste Cooking Oil and thus make the process self-sustaining. Something tells me the makers of Propane Gas may not like where this may be heading in the next few years.

Still, like the SOLAR-JET Project to create fuel literally out of thin air, this holds out the potential of solving the problem of what to do with Waste Cooking Oil. Hundred of Gallons of this stuff is also produced in London, England from various eateries and it can't be poured down the drain as it decomposes slowly, clogging waterways and killing soil bacteria.

Akin to Dr. Michael Coley's Project, it can turn Waste into Fuel for immediate use with the very Waste Cooking Oil continuing the process sustainably.

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