- Angela Zhu
- Steven Chang
- Samantha Alvarez
Title of Proposed Project
20.109(F12) Pre-Proposal: Engineering Alkyl Hydroperoxide Reductase Subunit C in E. coli to Extend the Oxidative Stability of Biodiesel Fuel
Biodiesel fuel is both a non-toxic and renewable resource, making it a promising alternative to standard diesel fuel. Current research focuses on synthesizing biodiesel from bacteria but does not address the poor oxidative stability of the biodiesel, which lowers its shelf life to a six month span. The proposed research would address this problem by engineering pre-existing biodiesel-producing bacteria to secrete antioxidants in order to optimize oxidative stability of the biodiesel and therefore make it viable for a longer period of time.
Diesel fuel is a non-renewable resource made from a limited supply of fossil fuels, which is drawing attention towards more renewable biofuels like biodiesel (Meng). Biodiesel is made of methyl esters, which are unsaturated fatty acid chains that are prone to oxidation via the free radical mechanism. It can be found in vegetable oils, animal fats, and even in used frying oil. One problem with biodiesel, however, is not very commercially accepted because it is expensive and has poor oxidative stability (Knothe) when exposed to oxygen in ambient air when it is being stored. This degradation of fuel quality can affect properties like kinematic viscosity, acid value, and peroxide value (Dunn). Treating the fatty derivatives with oxidation inhibitors (antioxidants) (Tang) fixes this
Previous research in the field has found that the addition of synthetic antioxidants into biodiesel improves oxidative stability, supported by research like that of Robert in ‘Effect of antioxidants on the oxidative stability of methyl soyate (biodiesel)’. However, this process occurs synthetically through various chemical processes in laboratories. Alternatively, by genetically engineering the biodiesel-reducing E. coli to produce these antioxidants, the bacteria eliminate the need for the overly complicated and expensive synthetic chemical process. This would result in a continuous supply of antioxidants for the biodiesel, which in the long run can be more cost-efficient because it prolongs the viability and stability of the biodiesel being produced. With a more efficient and lower cost biodiesel production stability commercial acceptance of biofuels will increase and therefore make it a more effective alternative fuel source, which in the grand scheme of things emphasizes greener fuel options that are more environmentally friendly than diesel. This is really important because one day fossil fuels will run out and, therefore, there need to be other successful and feasible fuel options available, which is why the study of biofuels is so important.
Make clear what you see is the structural hole/gap in understanding or the need, and how you propose to fill in or satisfy what you've identified. You should specify your general approach (e.g. "will screen for mutants that enhance the contrast of the bacterial photography system") but do not need to think through the precise experimental details yet. Emphasize instead what results hope to collect and how they might improve the shortcomings that you've identified as interesting.
Please make (don't copy or re-print another author's) a summary figure for your idea. This should give the reader a good idea about the idea you are proposing, cluing them in to the field you've focused on, the question you're asking and, ideally, the approach you're taking in your proposed research. These can be hand-drawn and scanned or designed digitally and posted.
Dunn, Robert. O. "Effect of antioxidants on the oxidative stability of methyl soyate (biodiesel)." Fuel Processing Technology 86.10 (2005): 1071-1085.
Knothe, Gerhard. "Some aspects of biodiesel oxidative stability." Fuel Processing Technology 88.7 (2007): 669-677.
Meng, Xin and Jianming, et al. Yang. "Biodiesel production from oleaginous microorganism." Renewable Energy 34.1 (2009): 1-5.
Tang, Haiying and Rhet C. et al. De Guzman. "The oxidative stability of biodiesel:Effects of FAME composition and antioxidant." Lipid Technology 20.11 (2008): 1-5.