Lasted edited by Andrew Munsey, updated on June 14, 2016 at 10:00 pm.
Discussion page for Directory:Bell Bio-Energy, Inc
This announcement is a long, long way from anything [practical] as yet. Not a Congress:Top 100 Technologies -- RD candidate at present....
The problem is not getting bacteria to grow on anything -- or to produce
just about any hydrocarbon. The problem is engineering a process that
produces combustible fuel (alcohol's primarily) in commercial quantities and
at viable costs... also without generating significant waste in the process.
Way back when I did my PhD I was working with recombinant E.coli that produced growth hormone. Making the recombinant bacteria was the easy part. Purifying a product from them is not so easy.
One of the big problems is that the product you are making is toxic in higher concentrations... even more so than ethanol. So you will only get a low volume yield of product for a large amount of biomass – which is a waste product in its own right. Unlike yeas waste bacterial waste is not as amenable to recycling.
And before anyone suggests a continuous fermentation process – there are massive (costly) problems in maintain a continuous process. It also generate a lot more waste water in the process and de-watering is one of the most expensive things in a downstream process.
Apart from all of this I suspect their process may not work due the problem of the long chain alcohols disrupting the cell membranes. Ethanol is only barely OK, butanol really not so good... by the time you get to octanol there are serious toxicity problems due to cell wall disruption. Octane is even worse.
So – while I would love something like this to be viable I have serious doubts that it ever will. To be honest -- they would be far better of engineering the bugs for methane production – so much easier to design a continuous and low cost process harvesting a gas.