Energy Research at the University of Washington

Mary E. Lidstrom

Energy Research Area: Focus on metabolic engineering of pathways in bacteria for metabolizing one-carbon compounds, using synthetic biology and systems biology approaches. Three projects in the laboratory involve the generation of liquid fuels from bacteria using renewable feedstocks.

Vice Provost for Research
Professor of Microbiology
Jungers Professor of Chemical Engineering
College of Engineering
Chemical Engineering
School of Medicine
Microbiology

The Lidstrom group focuses on metabolic engineering of pathways in bacteria for metabolizing one-carbon compounds, using synthetic biology and systems biology approaches. Three projects in the laboratory involve the generation of liquid fuels from bacteria using renewable feedstocks.

1) A methanol-utilizing bacterium, Methylobacterium extorquens, is being modified to generate butanol as part of a DOE-funded project. Methanol is generated from syn gas and from methane and as such, is a potentially renewable feedstock.

2) A novel pathway for conversion of formate to biofuels is being developed for E. coli in an ARPA-E funded electrofuels consortium project joint with Ginkgo Bioworks, UC Berkeley, and the Baker group at the UW. An enzyme that can convert formaldehyde to dihydroxyacetone has been developed via directed design using the Rosetta software package. Other enzymes have been identified to complete the pathway to convert formate to dihydroxyacetone-phosphate, an intermediate in glycolysis, from which fuel compounds can be generated. Formate can be generated electrochemically from CO2, and thus this pathway represents an approach to convert electricity and CO2 into liquid fuels.

3) A new methane-oxidizing bacterium is being engineered to increase productivity of converting natural gas into lipids in an ARPA-E funded consortium joint with NREL, LanzaTech, and Johnson Matthey. The lipids will be extracted from cells and catalytically converted with H2 to a diesel replacement. This same process can be used with biogas generated from sewage treatment plants, landfills, feedlots, and dairy farms.

Novel pathway for converting formate to biofuels in E. coli.
Novel pathway for converting formate to biofuels in E. coli.

Research Images

Process for converting natural gas to diesel using a methanotrophic bacterium.

Campus and Other Collaborators/Partners

Record last updated on February 28th 2013 PST.