Design Probes

Far-future research dialogue by Philips Design

Solutions for a sustainable world tend to point more and more in the direction of microbes, it seems that these little bacteria are key in helping us to save the world. Due to the fact that they are the most ancient life form on earth and have been thus proven to be very successful in surviving numerous of extreme conditions, they have now become a major player in various research initiatives. Craig Venter, the man who cracked the human genome, created a company to make hydrogen and ethanol from genetically engineered bugs. Another interesting example is the company LS9 who are working on a replacement for petroleum; which would be petroleum! Instead of reengineering the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made. They do so by 'custom-designing' the DNA of single cell organisms to have them excrete oil. Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready.

Some of the text were taken from an article by Chris Ayres for the Times

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