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Wash and go: shampoo-powered cars?

Scientist have identified a way of producing fuel from cars from compound contained within ice cream and household items such as soap and shampoo.

Writing for the journal PNAS, researchers at The University of Manchester reveal that they have identified a biocatalyst which could be used to manipulate hydrocarbon chemicals found in these everyday items to produce a synthetic replacement for fossil fuels.

Shampoo-a fuel of the futureWorking in collaboration with scientists from the University of Turku in Finland, the scientists were able to change the structure of the naturally occurring fatty-acids in these products to turn them into a ready-to-use fuel.

Hydrocarbon molecules are everywhere in our daily lives; as fragrance in soap, thickener in shampoo and fuel in the car.

Professor Nick Turner from The University of Manchester, who lead the research said: “Biocatalysts recognise molecules in the way that a lock recognises a key – they have to fit perfectly together to work. Sometime we redesign the lock so that if can accept a slightly different key allowing us to make even more interesting products.


“In this example we need to make sure that the fatty acid starting materials would be a perfect match for the biocatalysts that we discovered and developed in our laboratories.

The scientists’ discovery will enable them to further explore how to create renewable energy from sustainable sources, and the advance could lead to more innovative ways of sourcing fuel from natural resources.

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Faye Sunderland

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