Princeton University make glowing yeast cultures

January 31, 2022 |

In New Jersey, deploying a technique that promises to supercharge the development of biofuels, researchers at Princeton University have found a way to make yeast cultures glow when producing next generation fuels that could power cars and airplanes. 

The glowing cultures address a major challenge that has slowed biofuel production: developing yeast strains that produce valuable chemicals and separating them from less productive strains of yeast. Before the development of this new technique, evaluating the performance of yeast was a slow, laborious process. Researchers had to grow separate yeast strains and independently evaluate each strain’s ability to produce fuel and other chemicals. This process could take days for each strain.

In a paper published Jan. 12 in Nature Communications, the team described how they developed the biosensor for production of the biofuels isobutanol and isopentanol in yeast. Both are alcohols with a higher energy content than ethanol, which is the dominant biofuel now used in the United States. Like ethanol, isobutanol and isopentanol are produced by Brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), a single-celled fungus commonly used in making bread, beer and other alcoholic beverages. However, these advanced biofuels have much higher compatibility with existing gasoline infrastructure, allowing them to replace more fossil fuel, and can easily be upgraded to jet fuel.

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Category: Research

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