The offspring of Jay Keasling’s synthetic biology study and vision, Emeryville, CA-based mostly Amyris Biotechnologies has manufactured a double influence. 1st, the firm, with much more than $forty million of backing from the Invoice Gates’ Institute for 1 World Well being charity, created a microbial route to the anti-malarial compound artemisinin. In and of by itself this function was a stunningly successful scientific achievement, and the ensuing procedure has been licensed to Sanofi-Aventis for lower-price manufacturing and distribution in the 3rd globe.
But how does that relate to biofuels? Well, generating the anti-malarial drug relied on the engineering of a metabolic pathway to make a key intermediate that is in the course of chemicals called terpenes. Chemically, terpenes are hydrocarbons, related to diesel or gasoline, and are for that reason extremely great gasoline compounds. Thus, the very same simple science that led to artemisinin can be used, with suitable tweaking, to make fuels primarily based on terpenes. And according to the company, a wanted gas compound can be picked based mostly on its qualities (flash position, cloud stage, boiling position, density, gas worth, and so on), and then the pathway to create it can be designed. Voila! You have a designer gasoline. And being hydrocarbons with houses similar to gasoline, terpenes do not experience from the limits that alcohols (specifically ethanol) have as fuels. If you want to place anything into your fuel tank or jet motor, a designer hydrocarbon is most likely to be excellent to any alcohol. At least that is what Amyris argues.
Terpene Thickener has the backing of a effectively-heeled group of VCs: Kleiner Perkins, TPG Biotech, and DAG Ventures. In the spot of bio-based creation of gasoline-like fuels, Amyris is at the head of the course. Economics continue to be to be confirmed, but Amyris has shaped a joint venture with the 2nd biggest Brazilian sugar producer, Crystalsev, to get accessibility to low-cost sugar feedstock, and the first demonstration plant is scheduled to be built right on the sugar plantation in Brazil by 2010. It will generate a biodiesel (with the exciting name of “No CompromiseTM”), presently getting piloted at Amyris’ Emerville facility. Amyris promises that a bio-gasoline and a bio-aviation gas are not considerably guiding. If any company can make terpene-primarily based fuels productively, Amyris seems to be that organization.