Kyle Dunbar Sciences
Engineering Escherichia coli for Production of Alternative Fuels
A renewable energy source is becoming a necessity as fossil fuel reserves dwindle. Using microbial fermentation processes, it is possible to harvest plant biomass and convert it into second-generation fuels. Current industrial focus has been placed on ethanol production. However, this compound is not ideally suited for a liquid fuel replacement. A biochemical pathway has been expressed in Escherichia coli that produces 1-butanol, a much more suitable fuel source in terms of both transportation ease and energy density. Experiments have shown that the pathway is active, but there is a bottleneck in the last enzymatic step. Kyle’s project centers on elucidating the molecular aspects of this bottleneck in biochemical detail and resolving it to increase 1-butanol production.