Biofuel is fast becoming an alternative to fossil fuel with the likes of the US Air Force even successfully test flying jets running on a mixture of jet fuel and biofuel. This spells good news for the fossil fuel-starved planet that has been rigorously hunting for a way out of the fuel problem. Vegetable oils, animal fat and foodstock are a few of the popular materials used for biofuel generation. Now, this eco friendly source looks set to take on a fragrant aroma if the US Department of Energy is to have its way. A team is working to successfully develop methyl ketone from glucose for the generation of biofuel.
Methyl ketone has for long been used in developing fragrant cheeses and essential oils. Now, its biofuel generating capabilities are being tested as a viable option for alternative fuel. The researchers have found that their methyl ketone has high cetane numbers which shows that it could be a candidate for the production of advanced biofuel. Incidentally, advanced biofuel is derived from agricultural waste and non-food plants.
The team experimented with the E. Coli bacteria and modified it to develop large quantities of the glucose-based methyl ketone. The bacteria’s titer production of methyl ketone was able to be increased by over 4,000-fold with just a few modifications that included altering certain steps in beta-oxidation and increasing the expression of FadM, a native E. Coli protein.
The researchers tested two kinds of methyl ketone to find out their cetane numbers. In the US, diesel fuel must have minimum cetane levels of 40. By combining the two varieties, the team managed to bring down cetane numbers to 58.4. It is now working to tweak results so that the methyl ketones’ melting points are lower. Once achieved, they could possibly be used for cold-temperature fuels.