When life gives you lemons, make
An Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology researcher hopes to use a chemical found in lemons and other citrus fruits to make clean, renewable jet fuel. Dr Claudia Vickers is modifying baker’s yeast to produce a synthetic form of the natural chemical limonene at AIBN, based at The University of Queensland.
lemonade jet fuel
“Limonene is a volatile chemical that is best known for contributing to the smell of citrus fruits,” Vickers said. “It was first identified in turpentine oil in the late 1800s and is now used as a flavour and fragrance in foods, household cleaning products, and perfumes. It also holds promise as an anti-cancer agent.”
Vickers said the environmental benefits of using limonene as a fuel were particularly exciting. “It might sound unlikely, but limonene one day could be a renewable, clean source of aviation fuel,” she said. “Fifty per cent of a 747’s weight on take-off is its fuel.
Limonene extracted from citrus peel had been used successfully as a jet fuel component in demonstration flights in the past. “However, large-scale limonene production from citrus peel is impractical,” Vickers said. “Producing it in yeast should provide a route to much greater yields of limonene which are easier to extract.”
Limonene yields from the modified yeast are not yet high enough to be commercially viable, but Dr Vickers has plans to further modify the yeast for improved yields. The same technology could be used to make a variety of other sustainable products from limonene, including rubbers, plastics, and paints.
The feasibility research had the backing of industry partners including Boeing , Virgin Australia , Mackay Sugar , IOR Energy and US biotech company Amyris.
A United States Department of Agriculture report predicts “green chemicals” produced using biomass will represent 22 per cent of the chemical market by 2025. A short video on Dr Vickers and her limonene research can be seen here
Article sourced from Friday Offcuts