A step towards the microbial production of a biofuel which may be used as an alternative to D2 diesel fuel is reported in Nature Communications this week. Advanced biofuels, with properties similar to those of petroleum-based fuels, could be used by current engine designs, and distribution and storage infrastructure with potential benefits to the environment.
Taek Soon Lee and colleagues identify bisabolane as a biosynthetic alternative to D2 diesel and then engineer bacteria and yeast to produce the bisabolane precursor, bisabolene. The final step of the synthesis to produce bisabolane unfortunately requires a conventional hydrogenation and it cannot currently be carried out microbially.
Although the scale-up to commercially viable volumes would require significant further development, this work provides new insights into the identification of new terpene-based advanced biofuels and the development of microbial platforms for biofuel production.