Planes on bacteria? Scientists assemble molecule that could one day power rockets into space

Planes on bacteria? Scientists have found a way to power planes by assembling a molecule called jausamycin, which is made from bacteria found in the soil.

  • Researchers have created an alternative fuel from a unique carbon molecule and soil-dwelling bacteria.
  • Pablo Cruz-Morales, lead author of the study, says the bacteria-produced fuel will be similar to biodiesel in many ways.

One of the long-term problems of air travel is its dependence on oil, which is a finite resource contributing to changing of the climate.

Researchers have found a way to create an alternative jet fuel by assembling a unique carbon molecule that is made from a key bacteria that lives in the soil.

“In chemistry, anything that requires energy to produce releases energy when it breaks down,” says lead author Pablo Cruz-Morales, a microbiologist at DTU Biosustain, part of the Technical University of Denmark.

Knowing that igniting jet fuel oil releases huge amounts of energy, scientists wondered if there was a way to replicate the process without relying on fossil fuels.

The researchers explained that the fuel they created would work just like biodiesel. The photo above shows an extract containing javsamycin.

Cruz-Morales was approached by Jay Keasling, a chemical engineer at the University of California who was a postdoc in his lab at the time, who had the idea to recreate javsamycin, a molecule created by the common bacteria known as streptomycetes. .

The molecule is named after the movie Jaws because of its bite-like depressions.

“The recipe already exists in nature,” says Cruz-Morales, who notes that the jagged molecule is produced by bacteria that metabolize glucose. statement.

“When they eat sugar or amino acids, they break them down and turn them into building blocks for carbon-carbon bonds.

“You make fat in your body in the same way, with the same chemistry, but this bacterial process has some very interesting twists.”

“The recipe already exists in nature,” Cruz-Morales says.  The image above shows the common Streptomyces bacteria that the researchers used to produce alternative fuels.

“The recipe already exists in nature,” Cruz-Morales says. The image above shows the common Streptomyces bacteria that the researchers used to produce alternative fuels.

It is these twists that give molecules the ability to create explosive energy.

Cruz-Morales explains that bacteria-produced fuels are a lot like biodiesel.

It would need to be processed so that it could ignite at a lower temperature than the temperature needed to burn the fatty acid, but once ignited, it would be powerful enough to send a rocket into space.

“If we can make this fuel with biology, there is no justification for making it with oil,” says Cruz-Morales. “This opens up the possibility of making it sustainable.”

The researchers who published their findings June 30 in the journal Joulehope to expand this process in the future so that alternative fuels can actually be used in jet aircraft.

“The problem now is that fossil fuels are subsidized,” Cruz-Morales explained.

“This is something that is not only about technology, but also about the geopolitical and socio-political constitution of the planet right now.

“You can see this as preparation for the moment, because we will run out of fossil fuels, and not far from that moment there will come a point where we need alternative solutions.”