LanzaTech of Auckland, New Zealand, announced today that it had acquired funding from a founder of Sun Microsystems to scale up their ethanol production technology. What makes LanzaTech’s technology interesting is that it’s not based on yeast digesting sugars like corn and sugarcane ethanol is (and that cellulosic ethanol probably would be), but instead uses bacteria to convert carbon monoxide into ethanol.
This is a radical departure from the current standards because, as this NYTimes article mentions, carbon monoxide is an industrial waste product. While the NYTimes mentions the production of steel, other sources of carbon monoxide include chemical plants and power plants. Unfortunately, the most carbon monoxide emissions come from the transportation sector (cars, trucks, airplanes, etc.) instead of the energy or industrial sectors, and it probably won’t be feasible to put an ethanol generator on every car made anytime soon.
This company, and their technology, is something to keep an eye on.