Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have reported inthe journal Science that they have "genetically engineered a lithoautotrophic microorganism known as Ralstonia eutropha H16 to produce isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol in an electro-bioreactor using carbon dioxide as the sole carbon source and electricity as the sole energy input."
Or, in English, they have created a bug whch makes a form of alcohol from carbon dioxide when it gets an electric shock.
The significance of this is that it allows electricity to be stored in the form of an alcohol which can be used as a liquid transportation fuel – potentially allowing internal combustion engine vehicles to be power be electricity, rather than petroleum.
Professor James Liao, head of the research team, said that "The current way to store electricity is with lithium ion batteries, in which the density is low, but when you store it in liquid fuel, the density could actually be very high. In addition, we have the potential to use electricity as transportation fuel without needing to change current infrastructure."
"We’ve demonstrated the principle, and now we think we can scale up," he said. "That’s our next step."