Chemists use bacteria to create jet fuel

Researchers have found a way to produce alternative jet fuel by harvesting

an unusual molecule formed in the processmetabolism of bacteria commonly found in soil. In a paper published in the journal Joule, the scientists describe the synthesis of a cyclopropane-rich fuel with a net calorific value in excess of 50 MJ/L.

Chemists explain that jet enginesrequire high energy fuel. When it ignites, a huge amount of energy is released. Aviation and astronautics use hydrocarbons rich in cyclic molecules. In this case, the greatest amount of energy can be stored in cyclopropanes, but these molecules are difficult to obtain using organic synthesis.

Scientists have found that the necessary compoundsproduced by actinobacteria streptomycetes. In the process of metabolism in these microorganisms, glucose is converted into building blocks with triangular carbon "rings", which give the fuel explosive properties.

Streptomyces. Photo: Pablo Morales-Cruz

Chemists have identified the enzymes responsible for the synthesis of such molecules, and have created strains of bacteria that produce 22 times more of the desired substances - cyclopropanated fatty acid methyl esters.

The authors of the work explain that the fuel,produced by bacteria is in many ways similar to biodiesel. It needs to be processed to ignite at a low temperature, but when burned, the new fuel is powerful enough to send a rocket into space. Researchers continue to work to create scalable manufacturing.

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