Special bacteria developed at Argonne can turn biological waste into fuel by converting pigments in their cells into a type of biofuel called phytol—which separates out into the colorless top layer on the left.
Select enzymes are key components of biofuels production strategies and are proven active outside living cells using simple assays. In one example, a sample of a key target enzyme, chlorophyllase, produces the biodiesel-surrogate molecule phytol by cleaving a long fatty substituent from chlorophyll (the pigment responsible for the dark green color of plants). This cleavage is monitored readily when the altered chlorophyll molecule moves from the top organic layer (right) to the bottom aqueous layer (left) of a mixed solution following enzymatic cleavage of the phytol substituent.
Reseach by Argonne scientists Phil Laible and Matthew Culpepper.
Photo by Wes Agresta / courtesy Argonne National Laboratory.