I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane
The 2011 Thanksgiving through New Year holiday travel season is over, the escape from the cold travel season is kicking off. From November 2010 — January 2011 US domestic airline fuel consumption was 2,744.5 million gallons, costing $6,565.6 million, according to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics (Airline Fuel Cost and Consumption (U.S. Carriers - All) January 2000 - September 2011). This fuel was consumed over a total of 1,397,832,000 miles flown during that period (Domestic Revenue Aircraft Miles Flown (000) (Nov 2010 - Jan 2011)).
The Federal Aviation Administration announced on December 1, 2011 “$7.7 million in contracts to eight companies to help advance alternative, environmentally-friendly, sustainable sources for commercial jet fuel . . . the eight companies selected for the contracts will help the FAA develop and approve alternative, sustainably-sourced “drop-in” jet fuels that can be used without changing aircraft engine systems or airport fueling infrastructure. As part of that work, the companies will develop these biofuels from sources such as alcohols, sugars, biomass, and organic materials known as pyrolysis oils. In addition, the contracts call for research into alternative jet fuel quality control, examination of how jet biofuels affect engine durability, and provide guidance to jet biofuel users about factors that affect sustainability.”
The award winners are:
- $1.1 million for Honeywell UOP of Des Plaines, IL
- $3 million for LanzaTech, Inc. of Roselle, IL
- $1.5 million for Virent Energy Systems of Madison, WI
- $1.5 million for Velocys, Inc. of Plain City, OH
- $280,000 for Honeywell Aerospace of Phoenix, AZ
- $250,000 for Metron Aviation, Inc. of Dulles, VA
- $50,000 for Futurepast: Inc. of Arlington, VA
- $25,000 for Life Cycle Associates, LLC of Portola Valley, CA.
One of the most recent patents granted to Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc. in the area of alternative jet fuel is patent number 7,942,940, “Jet fuel compositions and methods of making and using same”, issued on May 17, 2011 to Neil Renninger, Jason Ryder, and Karl Fisher. Related US patents of the same title are 7,935,156 and 7,671,245. The ‘940 patent is assigned to Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc. of Emeryville, CA, and is one of 16 presently owned by the company.
The ‘940 patent is classified in the US Patent Classification system (USPC) as 44/300, which covers liquid fuels (excluding fuels that are exclusively mixtures of liquid hydrocarbons), under Class 44 fuel and related compositions. This invention falls within the Energy category of Way Better Patents cleantech ecosystem.
As of 12/5/11, 165 patents are listed in 44/300. The earliest patent issued with 44/300 as the original classification (USPTO-speak for the core inventive subject matter of the patent) is 1,575,437, issued on March 2, 1926.
Claim 1 states:
“A fuel composition comprising or obtainable from a mixture comprising:
(a) a C.sub.10 bicyclic isoprenoid; (b) a petroleum-based fuel; and (c) a fuel additive, wherein the amount of the C.sub.10 bicyclic isoprenoid is at least about 2 vol. % and the amount of the petroleum-based fuel is at least about 5 vol. %, both amounts based on the total volume of the fuel composition, and wherein the fuel composition has a flash point equal to or greater than 38.degree. C. and a density at 15.degree. C. from about 750 kg/m.sup.3 to about 850 kg/m.sup.3, and wherein where the C.sub.10 bicyclic isoprenoid is pinane, the fuel composition comprises from 0% to 10% of a hydrogenated naphthalene-containing material.”
The ‘940 patent yields jet biofuel produced in part from microorganisms; more than 80 microbial genera or species that can be used in this innovative clean technology process are listed in the specification. You may have heard of some of them:
- Aspergillus — bread and potato mold; basement mold & mildew.
- Bacillus subtilis — soil inoculant in horticulture and agriculture; laundry detergent additive.
- Candida albicans — fungus that grows both as yeast and filamentous cells and a causal agent of oral and genital infections in humans.
- Escherichia coli — bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms (endotherms). Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some can cause serious food poisoning in humans and are occasionally responsible for product recalls.
- Fusarium graminearum — plant pathogen which causes devastating disease on wheat and barley, responsible for billions of dollars in economic losses worldwide each year.
- Lactobacillus helveticus — most commonly used in the production of American Swiss cheese and Emmental cheese but is also sometimes used in making other styles of cheese, such as Cheddar, Parmesan, romano, provolone, and mozzarella. The primary function of L. helveticus culture is to prevent bitterness and produce nutty flavors in the final cheese.
- Penicillium — members of the genus produce penicillin, a molecule that is used as an antibiotic, which kills or stops the growth of certain kinds of bacteria inside the body.
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae — perhaps the most useful yeast, having been instrumental to baking and brewing since ancient times; believed to have been originally isolated from the skin of grapes. Antibodies against S. cerevisiae are found in 60–70% of patients with Crohn's disease and 10–15% of patients with ulcerative colitis. Used in brewing beer as a top-fermenting yeast.
- Salmonella enterica — Most cases of salmonellosis are caused by food infected with S. enterica.
- Shigella dysenteriae — S. dysenteriae, spread by contaminated water and food, causes the most severe dysentery because of its potent and deadly Shiga toxin, but other species may also be dysentery agents. Contamination is often caused by bacteria on unwashed hands during food preparation, or soiled hands reaching the mouth.
- Staphylococcus aureus — S. aureus can cause a range of illnesses from minor skin infections, such as pimples, impetigo, boils (furuncles), cellulitis folliculitis, carbuncles, scalded skin syndrome, and abscesses, to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, toxic shock syndrome (TSS), bacteremia, and sepsis. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus, abbreviated MRSA, is one of a number of greatly-feared strains of S. aureus which have become resistant to most antibiotics.
The patent does point out that non-pathogenic strains are preferred.
Thus, if the technology protected in this patent reaches commercial application, your future holiday air travel could be fueled, in part, by the action of microbes which can be our friend (bread, cheese, beer, penicillin, jet fuel) or foe (mildew, infections, dysentery, MRSA).
Food for thought, so to speak.