Domestic biofuels are an attractive alternative to petroleum-based transportation fuels. Biofuels are typically produced from plant matter such as sugars oils and biomass. This plant matter is created by photosynthesis a process that converts solar energy into stored chemical energy in plants. However photosynthesis is an inefficient way to transfer energy from the sun to a plant and then to biofuel. Electrofuels - which bypass photosynthesis by using self-reliant microorganisms that can directly use the energy from electricity and chemical compounds to produce liquid fuels - are an innovative step forward. NC State is working with the University of Georgia to create electrofuels from primitive organisms called extremophiles that live in extreme hot water environments. The team has genetically engineered these microorganisms so they can use hydrogen to turn carbon dioxide directly into alcohol-based fuels and other valuable precursor molecules. They are currently optimizing this system and working to scale up the technology.
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