Today’s Solutions: January 30, 2023

At a time when the need to replace fossil fuels is urgent, it is amazing to see the results of human innovation and creativity to meet the challenge.

Researchers at Berkeley Lab are working on a new producer of biofuel that produces a material that boasts an energy density far higher than jet fuel. 

The new fuel candidate is a particular bacteria with molecules that are known as polycyclopropanated fatty acid methyl esters or POP-FAMEs for short. POP-FAMEs are comprised of seven sets of cyclopropane rings, three of which are carbon atoms bonded into triangular shapes, forcing the bonds into a 60-degree angle. The strains of these sharp angles hold a lot of potential energy that can be released during combustion.

To create a lab-friendly bacteria, the researchers copied the associated gene clusters from natural cyclopropane-producing bacteria from the Streptomyces family into other bacteria. The result was POP-FAME molecules that only need one further chemical processing step to transform them into usable fuel.

Then, scientists at Sandia National Labs generated computer simulations of the fuel to estimate their properties compared to conventional fossil fuels. The analysis shows that the new fuels would be safe and stable at room temperature, and would have an energy density of over 50 megajoules per liter (MJ/L). This is an impressive jump over gasoline’s energy density, which sits at around 32 MJ/L, and even jet and rocket fuels which usually max out at 35 MJ/L.

Scientists are still working on this biofuel so that it can be ready to be put on the market. The next step is to figure out ways to produce larger amounts of it to be tested in engines, and by thinking up a way to engineer the process in more efficient bacteria strains. 

Source study: Joule—Biosynthesis of polycyclopropanated high-energy biofuels

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

An easy hack to counteract the harmful health effects of sitting all day

Humans are not designed to spend the entire day seated. Nonetheless, billions of us do it at least five days per week, as Western ...

Read More

How to change people’s minds without triggering a negative response

People don’t like being told what to do. There’s even a word for it: reactance. “Psychological reactance is a negative emotional state that we feel ...

Read More

The secret to happiness may be a bit of practice

For thousands of years, humans believed that emotions were predetermined hormonal responses out of our control, but in recent years researchers are beginning to ...

Read More

Pennsylvania schools doubled their solar power in the last two years

Renewable energy production is taking off in the Keystone State. A new report from the nonprofit Generation180 reveals that Pennsylvania schools doubled their solar ...

Read More