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06. Safe fragrances
05. DNA mass information store
04. Garden mounds for permaculture
03. Silver as high-tech material
02. Micro needle transmits medications and light
01. Electricity storage in gravity systems

12. An eye on space hazards
11. Water purification through freezing
10. Solar shingles
09. Trinary code
08. Vegetation-based battery materials
07. Indoor position location
06. The interface industry
05. Hypersonic aircraft
04. Re-usable glass packaging
03. Vein patterns as personal ID
02. Magnet making bacteria
01. Ultra-light solids

12. Ultrasound in water
11. Projected touchscreen
10. Electric airplane
08. Glass hard disc
04. Nuclear hazard
03. Clearing “sewer soap”
02. Water harvesting
01. Tea bag size personal water filter

12. Human powered water transport
11. The Technium
08. Bio-remediation of oil spills
07. Cleaner coal
05. Oil spill remediation
04. Solar towers
03. Brain-computer
02. Biodiesel producing bacteria
01. Hydrogen producing bacteria

12. Levitating living organisms
11. A new blue
10. Polymer magnets
09. Electric vehicle batteries
08. Implantable cancer monitors
07. Algal biofuel
06. Geo-Thermal Heat Pump
05. Battery powered roadster
04. Fenestration
03. Text to voice
02. Implantable ID chips
01. Air cleansing building material

12. ebooks
11. Energy Harvesting
10. Private space-flights
09. Virus identification chip
08. Bio-fuels
07. Electronic financial trading
06. Bio-remediation
05. New tech agriculture
04. Manufactured Hotels
03. Magnetic Induction
02. Genetic Vaults
01. Solid-state lighting

12 Bacteria in agriculture and industry
11. Blue revolution
10. Electronic nose
09. Nuclear sarcophagus
08. Shape shifting technology
07. Thought activated technology
06. Green is cool - make me look green
05. Electronic 'drugs'
04. Super-canals and super-ships
03. Environmentally friendly technology: greens versus grays
02. Agriculture: food,fiber and fuel
01. FPGA floating-point performance surpasses microprocessor

08. Energy sources for electricity compete
07. Universal interface (UI)
06. Magnetic levitation
05. Light pipes
04. Storage of electricity
03. Automotive engines
02. Molecular assembly
01. Introducing Technoscan Newsbriefs

Vol. 5, No. 2, February 28, 2010
ISSN 1932-3018

Biodiesel producing bacteria
Positioning this technology in the
Functionality Grid
Reformatted from: Van Wyk, Rias J: Technology - A Unifying Code, 2004, SMG, Cape Town, p.34. Based on: Ropohl, Gunter: Eine Systemtheorie der Technik, 1979, Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich and Vienna, p.178.
This Newsbrief deals with the prospects for a new store of energy - biodiesel as produced by genetically modified bacteria. In terms of the Atlas of Technological Megatrends it shows how information processing can create organisms to produce matter (biodiesel) to serve as energy store.
The previous Newsbrief, Vol. 5, No. 1, dealt with the production of hydrogen through bacterial action. The continuing interest in renewable energy systems is now focusing attention on biodiesel.
Biodiesel can be produced in different ways. These include:
  • Chemically - mixing vegetable oil and alcohol
  • Biologically - using algae
  • Microbiologically - using bacteria
In 2008 and 2010, researchers announced that they had succeeded in genetically engineering E. coli, to digest simple sugars from plant waste and turn them into biofuel. This is claimed to be the first one-step conversion of a renewable non-food plant to fuel. The altered E. coli can receive various inputs, including partially processed material like glucose and ethanol, and produce fatty acid methyl esters, or biodiesel. (Johnston, Casey "Engineering E. coli to produce biodiesel", Nature, 2010. DOI: 10.1038/nature08721)
From the point of view of fuel production this process is at a very early stage of development. In terms of NASA's nine technology readiness levels, it lies at about TRL 3. As E.coli is a very well studied bacteria, technology explorers could expect further refinement. The fact that it can be readily engineered indicates possibly enhanced competition with traditional biodiesel manufacturing technology. However, a possible negative image associated with E. coli may hinder unqualified acceptance.

© Rias J. van Wyk, 2013. Editor.