MIT researchers are turning waste gases to liquid fuel to combat global warming

By Arlene Karidis, Waste Dive.

Dive Brief:

  • The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal recently published research showing that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has demonstrated a way to convert emissions from landfills, power stations, and steel mills into liquid fuels using manipulated microbes. Its viability has been shown at a pilot plant in China and will now be tested on a larger scale with researchers hoping to confirm they have a cleaner, relatively cheap, and easy to mass-produce alternative to fossil fuel.
  • The process uses bacteria to convert gases into vinegar, next turning them into an engineered yeast, and ultimately producing an oil. This fuel from renewable sources would likely come not only from garbage, but manure and other farm waste, which MIT Professor Gregory Stephanopoulos called promising, claiming, "The volumes are staggering."
  • MIT owns the patent for the technology, which is licensed to GTL Biofuel Inc. The first pilot, successfully done at a plant near Shanghai, will now be followed by a 20-fold larger "semi-commercial" demonstration plant to assess cost and carbon footprint.