The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Cheaper Renewable Diesel May be Possible With Modified Yeast

January 18, 2017

Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Engineers at MIT may have made a breakthrough in the production of renewable diesel fuels using a hyper-efficient version of a common food product, yeast.

Researchers have reprogrammed a strain of yeast to more efficiently convert sugars to fats, also known as lipids, which can then be used to produce high-density fuels like diesel. While yeast will naturally produce these fatty oils from sugar, scientists needed to improve the efficiency of the process o make it more economically viable for fuel production.  

Engineers found that by modifying the metabolic pathways of a particular type of yeast, it can convert sugars into fats with 30% more efficiency. This latest discovery has allowed scientists to produce the same amount of oil using only 2/3 the amount of sugar as is required with unmodified yeast.

The goal is to use plentiful, cheap crops such as sugar cane and corn to produce high-density fuels at lower costs. With these latest modifications, the researchers believe using yeast to produce fuel could be economically feasible right now, using cornstarch at current prices. However, the goal is to increase efficiency to require even less glucose to produce a gallon of oil.

Researchers believe the process can be made even more efficient, saying that they are at about 75% of full efficiency currently. Follow up work will hopefully yield the remaining 25%.

Current renewable fuels, such as ethanol, have a low energy density compared to diesel and are less suitable for large commercial applications. While cooking oil has been used as a renewable source of diesel fuel, it is not scalable and expensive.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and was led by Gregory Stephanopoulos, the Willard Henry Dow Professor of chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at MIT.

Twitter Facebook Google+


Please note that comments may be moderated. 
Leave this field empty:

Fleet Incentives

Determine the actual cost of owning and running a vehicle in your fleet. Compare vehicles by class and model.


Fleet Tracking And Telematics

Todd Ewing from Verizon Connect will answer your questions and challenges

View All


Fleet Management And Leasing

Jack Firriolo from Merchants will answer your questions and challenges

View All


Fuel Management

Bernie Kanavagh from WEX will answer your questions and challenges

View All


Sponsored by

A specialized form of leasing wherein some or all fleet costs are estimated in advance, then budgeted and billed by the fleet management company with periodic invoices (usually monthly).

Read more

Alternative Fuel Locator

Use the Alternative Fuel Locator to find stations near you.

Launch Alternative Fuel Locator

Up Next

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher