From microbial fuel cells to closed-loop living systems, biotech offers a spectrum of ways to power our world.
That said, there are a number of debates endemic to bioenergy production. First and foremost has been the debate over land and water usage. The same lands and water traditionally used for crops, for example, have been used for biofuels. Is there a way to balance food with energy production, and can the two be synergistic?
Living Things, Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier
What if our furniture contained photobioreactors to provide heat, light, fresh air supply, nutrients, and waste control to a living environment for humans? In Living Things, the whole system is wired and plumbed to a support network in the kitchen, which harvests algae to supply the installation with energy. The creators seek to integrate microorganisms into home design. LEARN MORE
Renewable diesel from yeast, Amyris
In 2012, Amyris succeeded in creating renewable fuel by using yeast as a microbial factory to produce a drop-in fuel for cars and planes. To produce the target molecule, farnesene, at a low cost, Amyris’s bioreactors sit at the edge of a sugarcane plantation, and cane syrup is fed directly into them. Amyris recently announced it can produce farnesene for $1.75 a liter, which is not quite competitive with diesel prices, but a dramatic step in that direction. LEARN MORE
Renewable fuel, Joule Unlimited
Engineered bacteria function as "catalysts" to continuously convert waste CO2 directly into renewable fuels, including ethanol or hydrocarbons for diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline. LEARN MORE
Microbial fuel cells
The MudWatt Science Kit
The MudWatt uses mud—or rather, the common, electrogenic microbes found in mud—to create a small amount of electric power. This kit is educational and inspirational, bridging the worlds of basic electrical engineering and soil biology. LEARN MORE
Banner image: Joule Unlimited.