Thomas Bobik, professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, invented a process for manufacturing isobutene (isobutylene) by identifying a new, natural enzyme that produces the fuel organically.
Bobik, along with David Gogerty, a doctoral student working with him on the project, believe that once more research is completed, there could be huge benefits to the biofuels industry.
"I would emphasize that we are very early on in the process," said Bobik. "But isobutene has some special properties that could have a big impact."
Bobik's enzyme makes it possible to convert the glucose found naturally in plants to make isobutene. The enzyme is found naturally in about half of all organisms in the world.
While patent applications proceed, Bobik will not disclose the specific enzyme.
Isobutene is a gas used to produce chemicals and also in the manufacturing of fuel additives, adhesives, plastics and synthetic rubber.
It can be chemically converted to isooctane, which is a fuel that could be used to replace gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MBTE), which can be environmentally harmful.
Isooctane is used in gasoline to stop engine knocking and other problems. Currently, isooctane is produced from petroleum products.
By using his naturally occurring, biological process to produce isobutene, Bobik believes there will be environmental and cost benefits to the biofuels industry.
Currently, one of the biggest expenses in producing the biofuel ethanol is the cost of separating the ethanol from the water where it's made. Bobik's new process will not include the cost of separation.
"Isobutene is a gas, so we can imagine that it will be easy to remove the isobutene from the vessel in which it was made, and that should be a very cheap and efficient way to purify the biofuel," said Bobik.
One of the drawbacks, Bobik warns, is the process currently takes too long.
"The activity of the enzyme (in making the isobutene) is low," Bobik said. "It's too low for commercial application. So we're trying to use directed enzyme evolution to improve the activity of the enzyme so it can become commercially viable."
Directed enzyme evolution is the effort to engineer enzymes to perform certain functions. In this case, it is trying to find a way to get the enzyme to produce isobutene more quickly than in nature.
Bobik says progress is being made rapidly and perhaps, within 10 years, motorists may be using a bio-based, environmentally friendly ingredient in their gas tanks every time they fill up.
Research team creates new possibilities for medicine and materials sciences
22.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent
22.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences