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Microbial production of drop-in biofuels

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Environmental, political, economic and social concerns over our dependence on fossil fuels have in recent years led to a spate of biofuel-related research activities. A transition towards the increased usage of biofuels would not only reduce our dependence on fossil fuels but also potentially mitigate ...

Environmental, political, economic and social concerns over our dependence on fossil fuels have in recent years led to a spate of biofuel-related research activities. A transition towards the increased usage of biofuels would not only reduce our dependence on fossil fuels but also potentially mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. To further encourage this transition, there has been a notable shift in emphasis towards drop-in biofuels. These fuels, unlike ethanol, display physicochemical properties similar to that of fossil fuels and are thus highly compatible with the storage and transportation infrastructure.

Given recent advancements in engineering tools and techniques along with an improved understanding of biological systems, the natural mergence of synthetic biology with microbial engineering has led to inventive approaches for the renewable and sustainable production of biofuels. Microbes; on account of their relatively simple morphologies, fast reproduction rates, genetic tractability, well-characterised genomes, and innate capacity to accept and metabolise a broad range of readily available raw materials; serve as remarkable catalytic hosts for the production of a vast array of chemicals including biofuels. Moreover, their internal milieu provides the necessary enzymes and cofactors to allow reactions to proceed at near-ambient temperature and pressure, and in a spatiotemporal manner.

To date, the production of a small number of drop-in fuels such as butanol, fatty alcohols, alkanes and terpenes have been demonstrated in microbes, via the implementation of synthetic pathways. Such studies have been further complemented with innovative strategies to enhance production efficiency, synthesise new fuel candidates and improve host robustness. For this issue, we are seeking articles which will showcase some of the current trends and breakthroughs in the engineering of microbes for the production of drop-in biofuels.


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