Harry Beller, a microbiologist at Joint BioEnergy, has made an exciting discovery: Certain strains of E. coli that are modified to produce higher levels of fatty acids can synthesize large amounts of methyl ketones from glucose. In addition to being a popular ingredient in essential oils and cheese fragrances, methyl ketones make a good biofuel. When tested for cetane numbers (diesel fuel's equivalent to octane ratings in gasoline), Beller found the ketones to have a rating of 58.4. The minimum a diesel fuel must have is 40.
Beller, along with Ee-Been Goh, Edward Baidoo and Jay Keasling, published a paper on the subject titled “Engineering of Bacterial Methyl Ketone Synthesis for Biofuels” in the journal Applied Environmental Microbiology.