FCCT Biochemistry Lab:iGEM-HS-2015:Solutions

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As our world is becoming more and more dependent on technologies that use rather limited oil and fuel sources, the need to find alternative sources is increasing. Research has already shown that because of its long chain and consequent nonpolarity, butanol could, amongst other uses, replace gasoline in internal combustion engines. In nature, many organisms have been proven to be able to produce butanol by converting glucose into acids and then converting acids into alcohols. This organisms, mostly bacteria of the Clostridium genus (Clostridium acetobutylicum, Clostridium beijerinckii and Clostridium saccharoperbutylacetonicum), however, have complex metabolism, slow conversion rate and are often hard to grow in laboratories or for industrious use. For these and other reasons, they are unsuitable for larger butanol production. On the other hand, bacteria E. coli have relatively simple and strikingly fast metabolism, already researched and utilized mechanisms for genetic manipulation and are easy to grow and cultivate, making them the perfect laboratory and industrial organisms. By genetically manipulating the E. coli bacteria into performing only the second phase of butanol production found in Clostridium bacteria (acids to alcohols conversion), we could boost their butanol production and achieve good conversion rates and high yield of butanol for biofuel. Laboratory for environmental sciences and engineering at the National Institute of Chemistry in Ljubljana has been engaged in advancing processes that enable conversion of waste and renewable raw materials into energy for a long time now, but they have recently also developed a mechanism for direct biological conversion of waste to hydrogen by the means of using microorganisms. A series of intermediate products is produced, glycerol and high concentrations of butanoic acid amongst others. Incidentally, these are the two most important substances for our E. coli conversion mechanism. By using this waste products we could make use of all of the components involved in this processes, while also producing the much-needed biofuel, thus completing the circle of waste recycling, all while being eco-friendly.

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