Researchers at Chalmers have successfully engineered yeast cells so that they produce biodiesel. The technique now needs to be improved in order to be suitable for large scale production.
- We have created a synthetic yeast cell that can produce biodiesel, says Jens Nielsen, professor at Nielsen’s lab for Systems and Synthetic Biology at Chalmers.
By using advanced computer models combined with experiments in the lab, researchers in his research group have managed to genetically engineer yeast so that it produces diesel (instead of ethanol, as it produces naturally). There is still lot of work left in order to get the yeast cells to produce biodiesel at an industrial scale, but as a principle it is very promising. For instance, if compared to biodiesel production from rapeseed, the yeast process can be based on crops that produce much more energy per square meter of cultivated area and can thereby use the available area more efficiently.
A patent has been field for the technique that changes yeast to a biodiesel factory, and it has already generated interest from the industry, even if Jens doesn’t want to mention from which company.