Also known as isobutylene, the chemical can be converted into isooctane which, in turn, can replace the environmentally unfriendly methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MBTE) fuel additive. It can also be used in adhesives, plastics and synthetic rubber. The bio-breakthrough has come with the discovery of a new, natural enzyme that produces isobutene organically.
The enzyme, which is currently awaiting patents, is apparently naturally occuring in around half of all the world's organisms and makes it possible to convert natural glucose from plants into isobutene.
According to the University's Professor of biochemistry, Thomas Bobik, the breakthrough could have a "huge" impact on the development of biofuels. Currently the manufacturing process using the enzyme is too slow to be commercially viable, so Bobik and his team are working on a method to focus the enzyme on this specific task.
He is confident that with current progress, bio-based isobutene could be dispensed at the gasoline pumps within 10 years.
Published 1st July, 2010
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