Engineered Yeast Speeds Ethanol Production, Work Could Boost Supply Of Biofuel
MIT scientists have engineered yeast that can improve the speed and efficiency of ethanol production, a key component to making biofuels a significant part of the U.S. energy supply.
MIT professor of chemical engineering Gregory Stephanopoulos (left), postdoctoral associate Hal Alper and professor of biology Gerald Fink in the lab. The researchers have engineered a new strain of yeast that can produce ethanol more rapidly and efficiently. (Photo Credit: Donna Coveney)
Currently used as a fuel additive to improve gasoline combustibility, ethanol is often touted as a potential solution to the growing oil-driven energy crisis. But there are significant obstacles to producing ethanol: One is that high ethanol levels are toxic to the yeast that ferments corn and other plant material into ethanol.
By manipulating the yeast genome, the researchers have engineered a new strain of yeast that can tolerate elevated levels of both ethanol and glucose, while producing ethanol faster than un-engineered yeast.
The work will be reported in the Dec. 8 issue of Science.