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Genetically Engineered Bacteria That Produce Plastic

Posted by in on 10-12-12


Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803


A genetically modified bacteria that creates the plastic compound ethylene.

The new cyanobacterium works in the opposite way of traditional plastic production: Its photosynthetic capabilities means it harnesses today’s photons from sunlight (as opposed to old photons stored in the energy of chemical bonds in petroleum) to add carbon from the air to ethylene molecules.

The organism–cutely named Synechocystis–churns out about 170 milligrams of ethylene per liter each day, more than the photosynthetic productivity of other algae biofuels such as ethanol or butanol. And unlike other bacterial cultures, theSynechocystis strain also grows in nutrient-rich seawater and continues to yield ethylene gas over long periods (previous attempts only produced ethylene for short periods).


Saves six tons of carbon dioxide emissions for every ton of ethylene created: Three tons are absorbed by bacteria and three are avoided from the usual fossil fuels, says the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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National Renewable Energy Laboratory; The U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development

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