Eco Factor: Bacteria-based process produces acrylic acid and biodiesel by emitting fewer carbon emissions.
After successfully developing common industrial chemicals using bacteria, OPX Biotechnologies is now working to engineer organisms to make renewable fuel. The Colorado-based startup use the strains of E. coli to convert sugar to acrylic acid, which is commonly used in paints and adhesives. Making the chemical using oil emits carbon dioxide that is a treat to the environment. This bacteria-based process produces 75 percent fewer carbon-dioxide emissions than making the same amount from oil.
The company demonstrated its pioneering technology in a pilot plant with a 200-liter fermentation tank. A 20,000-liter system will be seen being built by starting next year, while a commercial plant capable of producing 100 million pounds of acrylic is not expected before 2014. It is claimed that a single commercial plant using this green process could reduce petroleum consumption by over 500,000 barrels per year.
OPX is also working on a process that utilizes bacteria to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into diesel fuel. The company’s ARPA-E diesel project uses its efficient technology to engineer a bacteria named cupriavidus necator that help in producing fatty acids to make biodiesel. There are plans to use carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and hydrogen from a variety of sources, including natural gas and water splitting using electricity from solar panels. This renewable fuel could be combined with petroleum-based diesel to power vehicles. Using genetic engineering to speed the development of organisms that make chemicals and fuel is faster and cost-efficient.