Engineering Microbes for Biofuel Production from Renewable Resources
Fixation of carbon dioxide requires electrons that can be provided by photosynthesis or by other solar-driven chemical processes yielding reduced compounds such as hydrogen, CO and others. Such carbon (CO2) and energy feedstocks can be converted to biofuels and bio-based products at energetic yields far superior to those typically achieved by photosynthesis. As such, they are presently attracting considerable attention for the role they could play in a sustainable economy that has reduced dependence on fossil fuels. These processes rely heavily on the activities of microorganisms either in their native form or properly engineered to achieve high conversion yields and productivities. Metabolic engineering is the enabling technology for engineering microorganisms to generate biocatalysts suitable for industrial application.
This presentation will review major challenges in realizing sustainable biofuel production and promising technologies for the synthesis of products of importance for the current liquid fuel infrastructure. In particular, the engineering of microbes for the conversion of gaseous feedstocks, such as natural gas and synthesis gas to a variety of liquid fuels and other chemical commodities will be discussed. It will be shown that Bio-GTL processes have great promise for utilizing distributed sources of natural gas and also converting CO2 to a variety of useful products when a sufficient source of reducing agents is available.