South San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) July 29, 2010
LS9, Inc, the Renewable Petroleum Company, today announced in Science magazine a major scientific breakthrough that will significantly lower the cost of producing "drop-in" hydrocarbon fuels that are low-carbon, sustainable and compatible with the existing fuel distribution infrastructure. This breakthrough has allowed LS9 to accelerate its technology and demonstrate alkane production at pilot scale.
In the article "Microbial Biosynthesis of Alkanes", a team of LS9 scientists announce the discovery of novel genes that, when expressed in E.coli, produce alkanes, the primary hydrocarbon components of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. This discovery is the first description of the genes responsible for alkane biosynthesis and the first example of a single step conversion of sugar to fuel-grade alkanes by an engineered microorganism.
For over 20 years scientists have tried to identify the genes that enable particular natural organisms to directly convert biomass into alkanes. However, previous scientific research has failed to identify these genes. To solve this mystery, the LS9 team looked into the genomes of bacteria that produce alkanes in nature known as cyanobacteria. "We evaluated many cyanobacteria that made alkanes and identified one that was not capable of producing them. By comparing the genome sequences of the producing and non-producing organisms, we were able to identify the responsible genes," said Andreas Schirmer, Associate Director of Metabolic Engineering at LS9.
This breakthrough is consistent with LS9's focus of developing renewable petroleum products using a proprietary one-step fermentation process that significantly reduces the costs and energy inputs. While other biological routes to the production of renewable hydrocarbons are emerging, these other routes require costly and energy intense chemical conversion technologies such as distillation or hydrogenation. LS9's patent pending discovery enables the conversion of renewable biomass into fuels and chemicals without the need for these costly and energy intense chemical conversion technologies.
"This is a one step sugar-to-diesel process that does not require elevated temperatures, high pressures, toxic inorganic catalysts, hydrogen or complex unit operations," said Steve del Cardayre, Vice President of Research and Development. "We believe in simple processes at LS9, and the simplicity of this process has allowed us to successfully accelerate its scale-up and development."
In addition to alkanes, LS9 is scaling-up its production of a biodiesel product and a portfolio of chemicals used in making industrial and consumer products.
"This scientific discovery made by the LS9 team is game changing for our company and the advanced biofuels industry," said Bill Haywood, CEO of LS9. "This remarkable breakthrough is yet another successful step in LS9's progress toward delivering a broad portfolio of renewable fuels and chemicals to the world market as quickly as possible."
For more information about LS9 products and capabilities, please visit http://www.ls9.com.
LS9, Inc., the Renewable Petroleum Company™, is a privately-held industrial biotechnology company pursuing the commercial development of renewable fuels and chemicals. LS9 is applying synthetic biology to produce proprietary biofuels that are compatible with existing fuel distribution and consumer infrastructure, as well as high-value industrial chemicals. LS9 is the pioneer in the commercial development of fermentation derived hydrocarbon biofuels and its patent-pending Renewable Petroleum products are custom engineered in the lab to address immediate market needs for clean energy alternatives to petroleum. The company was founded in 2005 and Chevron Technology Ventures, Flagship Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and Lightspeed Venture Partners have provided funding to date. The company has also entered into a strategic partnership with Procter & Gamble. LS9 is headquartered in South San Francisco, California.