Because of this, the researchers decided to investigate the enzyme that forms bisabolene, called AgBIS. Using X-ray diffraction, McAndrew and his colleagues established the enzyme's structure. They presented their findings this month in the journal Structure. By knowing what the enzyme looks like, the scientists can find ways to make it work better. "We can try to engineer out some of the inhibitions involved," said McAndrew.
It's not just what goes on inside a bacterium that's interesting for researchers; bacterial colony structures may have properties that are useful for biofuel production.
Sean Shaheen, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Denver, was part of a team that recently received a grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement to see how bacterial fractals can more efficiently produce hydrogen and biodiesel.
"We want to ask the fundamental question if fractal geometry is more useful than a colony growing in a big clump," said Shaheen. Fractals are patterns that repeat at multiple scales often in found in nature, like in tree branches or landscapes. Each subsection is similar or identical to the whole in terms of its geometry. In living systems, these patterns emerge as organisms reproduce, grow and develop.
Shaheen and his colleagues reasoned that there must be some benefit for bacteria to grow in fractal shapes, so they are investigating whether fractal geometries can offer benefits in biofuels. "The idea is to create an optimized morphology with the bacterial colony," Shaheen said.
The researchers are looking at bacteria like Paenibacillus dendritiformis, which forms circular, fan-shaped colonies, measuring how efficiently it soaks up nutrients and produces useful products. If their hypothesis proves correct, the team will then engineer fractal growth in bacteria that can more effectively make fuel, optimizing its growth patterns.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500