Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have used a gene identified and characterized at UBC's Okanagan campus to improve how bacteria convert biomass into fuel.
In research published in the journal Planta [Demissie ZA, Sarker L, and Mahmoud SS 2011, Planta 233: 685-696], Soheil Mahmoud's team in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences identified the gene that makes the monoterpene β-phellandrene, a biochemical compound that contributes to the essential oil and scent in lavender plants.
The Berkeley researchers used the gene to demonstrate that cyanobacteria are capable of producing β-phellandrene as a potential biofuel molecule. It turns out that β-phellandrene synthase makes a big difference in how much fuel the bacteria are able to generate. The Berkeley research was published in March in the journal Bioenergy Research.