BACTERIA WILL HELP WITH FUEL PROBLEMS FOR REACTIVE ENGINES

16.05.14

Solving the problem of the creation of renewable energy sources for vehicles, researchers created microorganisms, allowing to produce biofuels, which can be used for cars. But for civil and military aircraft it's required a fuel with a high energy density. In the new work it's reported about modified bacterium, which produces pinene, that during the dimerization could be used for refueling aircraft engines, missiles and rockets.

Pamela Peralta-Yahya from Georgia Institute of Technology says that the usual aviation fuel used for jet aircraft, such as a compound known as JP- 10 , contains hydrocarbons with a strained cycle systems , which allow to concentrate a high energy density in a small volume, that allows in its turn for aircraft to reduce the size (and weight) of the fuel tanks. Recently, researchers have found that the dimers of pinene containing four-membered tensed cycle, may become the fuel similar to the energy density of composition  JP-10.

Conifers and other plants produce a molecule that contributes to the flavor of pine needles. Peralta- Yahya said that it is impossible to grow a sufficient number of trees for the production of tactical fuel. Therefore, according to Peralta- Yahya , we must find a new source of pinene .

With additional genes geranyl diphosphate synthase (GPPS) and pinene synthase (PS), bacteria have acquired the ability to synthesize pinene - biofuel precursor from glucose. Due to the metabolic processes of the microorganisms, glucose is converted into acetyl-CoA, then into isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). Then the two added into genotype of bacteria enzyme capture these metabolites and turn them into pinene . Subsequently, using the catalyst chemists, pinene could be dimerized into biofuels (structure of the far right).

Plants produce pinene due to the work of two key enzymes - geranyl diphosphate synthase, and pinene synthase . Peralta-Yahya and his research group added genes, which provide the expression of the most active pair of proteins from six plants to a sequence of Escherichia coli, to let bacteria turn their own metabolites into pinene. Peralta-Yahya said that now microorganisms produce 28 mg of pinene per 1 liter of a mixture, where a cultivation of organisms is proceeded, - that is far below the necessary level required for the commercial feasibility of the process. The amount should have been 26 times larger to achieve a level at which the process would be commercially acceptable.

Peralta- Yahya and her team suggested that the reason of low amount was that the intermediate - geranyl diphosphate, binds to another part of the pinene synthase enzyme and inhibits its. In an attempt to reduce the inhibition, researchers combined enzymes together in the same gene. Two enzymes were combined in such a way that the geranyl diphosphate could be sent directly to the active center of pinene synthase and not inhibit the enzyme . Associated gene increased the amount of pinene to 32 mg / l, which in itself is already an improvement, but nevertheless , the amount is still below the set aim. Peralta Yahya says that inhibition probably is still one of the major obstacles that affects the low amount , and so she plans to study enzymes more to find a way to solve this problem.

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