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E. coli Protected By A Rainforest Bug

e coli in the rainforest

These days, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have found in the tropical rainforest of Puerto Rico, a type of soil-dwelling bacteria containing a pair of genes which can help the E. coli bacteria to produce a special type of biofuel.

The Bacteria Found in the Rainforest

Enterobacter lignolyticus is the name of the bacteria found in the rainforest that can help E. coli to produce a special biofuel.

This type of soil-dwelling bacteria is carried by a bug living in the rainforest of Puerto Rico.

The soil of the Puerto Rico rainforest, contains plenty of microorganisms due to frequent rainfalls and an atmosphere full of moisture.

Using the Rainforest Bacteria to Produce Cleaner Fuels

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory already developed a new biofuel strategy based on the new discoveries of salt based ionic liquids.

Normally, ionic liquids are used to extract cellulose from different types of biomass, which works in a cost-effective way in the first stages of the biofuel production.

In the next stage, E. coli bacteria appear on the stage and breaks the cellulose in different types of sugars. These sugars will then be converted into biofuels in a salty environment that is not very adequate for this process.

With the new discovery of Enterobacter lignolyticus bacteria, the problem with the salty liquids can be solved because this bacteria with its pair of genes can protect E. coli in the salty environment of the ionic liquids.

Scientists already made a few tests in which they used these new discovered genes to protect the E. coli bacteria, and managed to produce bigger quantities of terpene-based biofuel.

Enhancing the Production of Advanced Biofuels

With this new discovery, the production of advanced biofuels has been enhanced because the ionic liquids remained in the process, but other microorganisms that compete with E. coli in this process has been reduced significantly.

Because of this, now E. coli can produce higher quantities of biofuel in the same process, and this way, the efficiency was improved, and costs reduced.

The E. coli bacteria has been already modified to consume cellulosic biomass from switchgrass by scientists at JBEI (the Joint Bioenergy Institute), a research facility led by the Energy Department’s Berkeley Lab.

Scientists at JBEI are responsible for many discoveries in this field, but the most important seem to be an improved production of sugars in the plant cell walls. Sugar is the energy source in these biofuels.

Different other studies in the E. coli biofuel production were made by scientists at Rutgers University and Harvard University to name just a few here.

As the US Department of Agriculture told us in 2008, switchgrass can replace up to 30% of the domestic petroleum used in the country.

With the new discovery we can just imagine how many opportunities appear in front of us now when E. coli bacteria can produce advanced biofuels from switchgrass with the help of a tiny pair of genes delivered by a humble rainforest bug.


The forest seems to hold unknown marvels for mankind, which must be found and used to improve our life here on the planet.

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