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Biotech Power

Self-Destructing Bacteria Create Better Biofuels 139

MikeChino writes "Researchers at Arizona State University have genetically engineered cyanobacteria to dissolve from the inside out, making it easy to access the high-energy fats and biofuel byproducts located within. To do this they combined the bacteria's genes with genes from the bacteriaphage — a so-called 'mortal enemy' of bacteria that cause it to explode. Cyanobacteria have a higher yield potential than most biofuels currently being used, and this new strain eliminates the need for costly and energy intensive processing steps."
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Self-Destructing Bacteria Create Better Biofuels

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  • Re:response storm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IBBoard ( 1128019 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:03AM (#30386234) Homepage

    How can there be a zombie outbreak? Everyone who is infected will explode from the inside out. It would be quite messy, though!

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:05AM (#30386246) Journal

    Plants are the most efficient at collecting solar energy.

    I'm not sure that's the case, but what plants are, is cheap.


  • by TeXMaster ( 593524 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:07AM (#30386262)

    Plants are the most efficient at collecting solar energy.

    I'm not sure that's the case, but what plants are, is cheap.


    Everything is cheap until everybody starts collecting it.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:23AM (#30386336) Journal
    "This hydrogen nonsense was a huge waste of money, and should have been invested in biofuels."

    This coal burning nonesense was a huge waste of money and lives [], we should have invested in unproven technology X.
  • by Marcika ( 1003625 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:32AM (#30386390)

    Photosynthesis extracts a whole lot more of the sun's energy per square meter than our best solar panels..

    No it doesn't. Most plants only operate at 1-2% photosynthetic efficiency, the most efficient crops maybe at 7%, and the theoretical maximum is 11% [].

    Compare that to solar cells which have 15-20%, in the laboratory even 40% efficiency. The advantage of photosynthesis is not efficiency, but price and resiliency, with the "cells" manufacturing themselves.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:11AM (#30386524) Journal
    Yes, whenever a bacterium gets infected. Your cells explode if they get infected with a virus too.
  • by Schiphol ( 1168667 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:15AM (#30386794)
    It makes some sense. The idea is that whenever you have a lot of bacteria reproducing, mutation rates being what they are, benefitial mutations will eventually appear. Something like this has been used to. Chemostats [], which are what these things will essentially be, have been used to test evolution experimentally in just this way.

    Now, the flaw in Niedi's reasoning is that evolution is directed only be better differential reproduction. So, if bacteria reproduce before self-destruction, there will be no environmental pressure to select against this feature.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:49AM (#30387978)

    What are you smoking? *Ahem* the basic premise is wrong. In fact, plants, in the most narrow definition of the word, are totally fucking capable of photosynthesis. Unless you just made up a definition of a plant. You see, its because plant cells do contain a degenerate cyanobacter that we call a "chloroplast." Strictly speaking, this part of plant cells is not actually plant in origin, but then if we're speaking strictly, neither is the DNA in the plant cells or the cell membrane or the cell wall because, you see, all of these come from these really old bacteria and the plant just STOLE them! And called themselves living things! Ugh, it makes me sick. "Actually," it doesn't matter that chloroplasts, a long time ago, were fully alive. It's kind of like how it doesn't matter that you, a long time ago, were a small child with the promise of being a productive human being. Now, chloroplasts are part of plants and you are a piddling excuse of a man.

    If you still don't believe me, consider: while chloroplasts were free-living cyanobacteria millions of years ago, they are now incapable of survival outside of the host cell; additionally, they cannot replicate without the host cell so they are "not actually 'fully' alive" either. Considering that a substantial portion of their DNA is also stored in the nucleus of the plant cell, one must really consider the chloroplast part of the host cell; that is why any biologist will say that chloroplasts are an organelle inside (some) plant cells. The same argument is applied to mitochondria: they are part of animal cells and thus, animal cells are alive. Trying to split the eukaryotic cells from mitochondria (or plant cells from chloroplasts) is like taking the creme filling out of a Twinkie; you can't because both parts are integral to the whole. Neither you nor your liver would survive very long without each other, and the same can be said for eukaryotic cells and mitochondria. (Obviously, this doesn't generalize to other organs as you are living proof that life can be sustained sans brain).

    Needless to say, the cyanobacterium itself is not necessarily more efficient at photosynthesis than entire plant cells. For starters, all plant cell structures except for the chloroplasts are basically transparent so all the sunlight absorbed by plant leaves is absorbed in the chlorophyll that is only present in the cytochrome complexes in the chloroplasts. Additionally, plant leaves have other structures that control the environment inside the leaf and let the "cyanobacteria" work better; think of it as how "humans" work play WoW much better in air conditioning than hot sunlight. Normally, the plant-chloroplast relationship would be called symbiotic since the plant provides the chloroplast with otherwise unavailable access to sunlight. However, in this case it's direct human intervention that provides the access to sunlight. it obvious that the plant and chloroplast both benefit from their arrangement, but you are an idiot who styles himself a genius.

    Also, can you please explain to me how it is "direct human intervention" that provides chloroplasts with sunlight? I didn't realize that we controlled the fucking sun...or is that because I one of the sheople manipulated by the secret cabal?

  • by tpjunkie ( 911544 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @10:32AM (#30388456) Journal
    You basically beat me to what I was going to say, but I will also add that the OP neglected to mention that glycolysis, which certainly produces ATP, occurs in the cytoplasm of every animal and plant that would make them "not alive" I haven't the faintest idea.

But it does move! -- Galileo Galilei