While some research at MIT focuses on improving the amount of fossil fuel that can be extracted from an oil well, others are trying to improve the efficiency of biofuel production. To make biofuels more economically viable, a group of researchers led by MIT’s Gregory Stephanopoulos is trying to improve the productivity of the microbes that convert treated biomass into ethanol. The bacteria are being modified so they can continuously convert sugar into ethanol. Standard bacteria or yeast used to convert sugar in to ethanol tend to have a low tolerance to ethanol, so as more ethanol is produced, the less efficient the bacteria become. Stephanopoulos is engineering E. coli and yeast with higher ethanol production through a systems approach to genetic engineering.

[Source: Technology Review]


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