Fir Trees as Biofuel

A new biofuel is invented which is based on fragrant terpenes found in fir trees. The scientists from Joint BioEnergy Institute announced that it is now possible to derive a renewable biofuel from the fir tree terpenesTerpene is a diverse class of chemical compounds produced by a variety of plants. It is found in high concentrations in conifers. Terpene is the reason why the fir trees have their distinctive odor. The scientists have found that terpene, which is also called bisabolane, has a chemical structure similar to that of the hydrocarbons that make up diesel fuel. It has noncorrosive properties that are likely to improve the performance of trucks operating in cold weather.

To get a large amount of the new biofuel, scientists used the genetic engineering for transferring the cellular machinery that produces bisabolane in fir trees into fast growing bacteria (Escherichia coli) and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). To achieve this, first microorganisms were used for producing large quantities of the bisabolane precursor, bisabolene, and then chemical hydrogenation reaction was added into the production process for transferring the biosynthetic bisabolene into bisabolane. According to Taek Soon Lee, team leader of researchers at JBEI, the invented microbial platforms will be the most convenient and cost-effective solutions for creating the new biofuel. In the next step of the research, the scientists plan to scale up the new biofuel technology to a commercial level of production.