Oct. 8 - Scientists in South Korea say they have produced gasoline from genetically modified Escherichia coli, a bacteria more commonly associated with food poisoning in humans. The researchers, from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, say their work could one day lead to a new and sustainable source of clean fuel. Rob Muir reports.
Cars of the future might run on gasoline produced not from fossil fuels but from a bacteria that lives in the lower intestine of all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Some strains of Escherichia coli cause food poisoning but most are harmless and now a team of scientists, led by Professor Lee Sang-yup of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, have demonstrated that E. coli can also be reprogrammed to produce a high-premium oil product. They're using the bacteria to make gasoline. (SOUNDBITE) DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF THE KOREA ADVANCED INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY LEE SANG-YUP SAYING: "By using a strategic tool called 'metabolic engineering', we've conducted research on converting glucose or waste biomass directly into gasoline." The glucose conversion produces chains of hydrocarbons similar to those found in conventional gasoline. At this stage the process requires massive amounts of bacteria to produce just a few drops of fuel but Lee says that with the concept proven, the team can now work on improving the process. (SOUNDBITE) DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF THE KOREA ADVANCED INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY LEE SANG-YUP SAYING: "In the future, we're going to conduct an integrated study on the enhancement of the metabolic system and enzyme activity. Having optimized method of cultivation, we will continue our research to find ways to improve our productive efficiency." Eventually the team hopes to turn their research into a viable energy alternative..powerering cars of the future with clean, sustainable fuel.