Biofuel Alternatives to Ethanol: Pumping the Microbial Well

Trends Biotechnol. 2008 Jul;26(7):375-81. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2008.03.008. Epub 2008 May 28.


Engineered microorganisms are currently used for the production of food products, pharmaceuticals, ethanol fuel and more. Even so, the enormous potential of this technology has yet to be fully exploited. The need for sustainable sources of transportation fuels has generated a tremendous interest in technologies that enable biofuel production. Decades of work have produced a considerable knowledge-base for the physiology and pathway engineering of microbes, making microbial engineering an ideal strategy for producing biofuel. Although ethanol currently dominates the biofuel market, some of its inherent physical properties make it a less than ideal product. To highlight additional options, we review advances in microbial engineering for the production of other potential fuel molecules, using a variety of biosynthetic pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Energy-Generating Resources*
  • Ethanol / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Fermentation
  • Terpenes / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Terpenes
  • Ethanol