Bacteria produce ethanol from seaweed


A promising development in biofuel energy research, and one that will not displace essential food production:

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 munched into ethanol, it broadens the biofuel horizon, says Alper, who was not involved in the research. Seaweed, he says, may be “that new source for unconventional carbon that everyone’s been looking for.” (source)

(h/t The Register)


  1. Maybe all those tipsy fish noted in a prior post are living off oceanic moonshine from this engineered bacteria getting into the wild.

    Gotta wonder how the Frankenfood people feel about this.

  2. This looks interesting but you have to wonder if it will effect the ocean life if pursued on an industrial scale.

  3. Kevin R. Lohse says:

    The areas where seaweed will grow is a very small proportion of the total ocean. As Andy has noticed the effects on ocean life need to be seriously considered. For instance, would farming the Sargasso Sea cause havoc in the Atlantic Salmon population, an important food source? I’m not an ecoloon btw, far from it.

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