Electrofuels: Charged Microbes May "Poop Out" a Gasoline Alternative
Run current through genetically engineered microorganisms, and they produce gasoline substitute. Can U.S.-funded electrofuels research finish the drive from lab to market?
Instead of relying on corn, sugar cane, or other plants to collect the sun's energy, electrofuels researchers use microorganisms.
And instead of harvesting plants and other biomass and converting them into biofuels like ethanol, electrofuels researchers are genetically engineering microorganisms that, as one researcher put it, "poop out" chemicals that can burn directly in your gas tank.
"That's exactly what they do," said Eric Toone, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry who is now back at Duke University in North Carolina, after spending two years helping to administer the U.S. Department of Energy's four-year-old ARPA-e program. (See related: "Storage, Biofuel Lead $156 Million in Energy Research Grants.")
The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, modeled after the Pentagon's long-running Defense Advanced Research