Conversion Of Co2 To Higher Alcohols Using Photosynthetic Microorganisms

Tech ID: 30255 / UC Case 2008-384-0


UCLA researchers have discovered a way to convert carbon dioxide into potential biofuels through the metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria.  This method enables more efficient production of biofuels using an industrial waste product as a starting material.


The need to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels has stimulated interest in the production of renewable fuels.  The most common biofuel, ethanol, suffers from several limitations.  Its hygroscopicity, the ability of a substance to attract water, poses problems for distribution and storage.  Ethanol also has a low energy content, making production from sources such as corn non-ideal as a result of the energy that must be invested for its production.  There is a need for biofuels with more desirable properties as well as a means for their facile production, ideally from sources other than those that are part of the food supply.


Researchers at UCLA have employed metabolic engineering methodologies to use photosynthetic cyanobacteria to convert carbon dioxide first into carbohydrates, and then into carboxylic acid intermediates.  These organic intermediates can then be enzymatically converted to higher alcohols, which have potential applications as biofuels.


  • Biofuels
  • Organic solvents


  • Biofuels that are higher energy density and less hygroscopic than ethanol
  • Large scale fermentation provides for facile production
  • Uses an industrial waste product as feedstock

State Of Development

Isobutanol has been produced using this methodology, and it can be applied to produce other higher alcohols.

Patent Status

Country Type Number Dated Case
United States Of America Issued Patent 9,145,542 09/29/2015 2008-384


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  • Liao, James C.

Other Information


chemicals, biofuels, bioenergy, renewable energy, metabolic engineering, alcohols, iso-butanol, 2-methyl-1-propanol

Categorized As