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Showing posts from December, 2010

News: Biofuels Digest Awards for 2010

It's the end of the year, and so many places look back onto the year and evaluate their accomplishments. So Biofuel's Digest, a leading biofuels news site, has looked at the industry and handed out a multitude of awards. The ones I consider the most important ones are:
Company of the Year: SolazymeTech of the Year (pilot): LanzatechTech of the Year (demonstration state): Taurus Energy, SekabTech of the Year (commercial stage): Renewable Energy GroupProduct of the Year (fuel): Amyris (Farnesane)Product of the Year (renewable chemicals): Genencor (Bioisoprene)Product of the Year (bio-based products): OPX Biotechnology (Bioacrylic)Of note also is that SG Biofuels (not to be confused with Sythetic Genomics) and Sapphire Energies mentioned in my previous survey also won some awards:
Plan for Scale: Sapphire EnergyFeedstock domestication project of the Year: SG BiofuelsThere are more awards and honorable mentioning. 2010 has been an exciting year for the sustainable biotechnology ind…

Investigation: What sustainable biotechnology companies are there in California? Part I: Biofuels

I have previously talked about the similarities and differences between the sustainable economy and the bio-based economy. As I am working on completing my PhD in 2011, I have started to look towards the next step. My goal for 2011 is to start a career in the sustainable biotechnology field, and so I have surveyed my options in California.

In my survey on this topic, I have found that the sustainable biotechnology companies can be divided into three areas of activity: biofuels, industrial enzymes, and bio-based biochemicals. Perhaps the most visible field area of sustainable biotechnology is the biofuels field given the increased need to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. Because of the large potential market in this area, it may not be too surprising to learn that nearly every company in this field is involved in one form or another. This part will focus on companies that mainly are associated with biofuels development. They are characterized by mostly not having any products on t…

Sustainable Living – One Step At A Time: More Efficient Recycling

It's been a while since last I talked about my families' path on going on a more sustainable life style. Today, I want to talk about recycling. Like many other houses in the neighborhood, we have 3 trash cans outside: One blue can for recycled goods, a green can for "garden" waste, and a regular black one for trash that will just go to the land-fill. We have in the past sort of haphazardly made use of these containers. I mean: the tons of spam we receive ends up in there, and cut grass goes into the green container. But really, a lot of other stuff just ended up in the black trash bin because it is just so much easier to throw everything into the same trash can in the kitchen. We had a nice and big 13 gallon trash can with a sensor, but since the cheap sensor recently broke, and the lid became suddenly useless, I decided to make recycling easier by purchasing a less technology-intensive trashcan (less complexity = less can break) that, however, has three compartments…

Journal Club:”Direct Exchange of Electrons Within Aggregates of an Evolved Syntrophic Coculture of Anaerobic Bacteria” - OR: How Bacteria Hook up to Share Energy

Another curious observation made the science rounds the past week: wired, electric bacteria. Reading this article reminded me of a review article on dissimilatory bacteria I read before, and one of the most interesting talks I ever attended in my life titled "Eavesdropping on Bacterial Conversations".

What did they do?


Summers, who is Microbiologist working in the Lovley lab at the University of Massachusetts, was studying Fe(III) reducing bacteria in the soil. They wondered what would happen when Fe(III) reducing bacteria would deplete Fe(III) available in the soil. In order to study this question, the research group co-cultured two strains of geobacter bacteria: Geobacter metallireducens and Geobacter sulfurreducens. The research team thought that combining the former bacteria that can oxidize ethanol in order to obtain energy, but normally must pass obtained electrons onto Fe(III) which was not present in the solution, with the latter strain which cannot metabolize, but c…

Journal Club:”A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorous”

Since the previous journal club where we covered an article that looked at the microbial synthesis of alkanes, another a curious observation made the rounds in the science world. In the latest Science Journal, Felisa Wolfe-Simon et. al. report their successful isolation of a bacteria that can use arsenic instead of phosphorous.

The group isolated the bacterial strain called, GFAJ-1, by inoculating synthetic media containing glucose, vitamins and trace metals and varying concentrations of AsO43- with sediments from Mono Lake which naturally contains high concentrations of dissolved arsenic (200 M) and performing many serial dilutions. GFAJ-1 was identified to belong to Halomonadaceae family of Gammaproteobacteria.


Various tests were performed to verify that these organisms could not only live but procreate in this environment. Among the remarkable features of this organism is the observation that arsenic can get incorporated into macromolecules most notably DNA where it replaces the nee…