Office for Technology Commercialization

Co-cultured Synechococcus and Shewanella Produce Hydrocarbons without Cellulosic Feedstock

Technology #20100084

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Image Gallery
Matrix of Shewanella Bacteria on a Thin-latex Film Synechococcus Algae and Shewanella Bacteria Interact to Produce HydrocarbonsShewanella Bacteria
Larry Wackett, PhD
Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Department of Biochemistry, BioTechnology Institute
External Link (
Jeff Gralnick, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, BioTechnology Institute
External Link (
Managed By
Eric Hockert
Technology Marketing Manager 612-624-9568
Patent Protection

US Patent Pending

Long-chain Hydrocarbons from Synechococcus and Shewanella

A method to directly synthesize long-chain (C25-C31) hydrocarbons directly from sunlight, water, and CO2 using co-cultured microbes has been developed. These hydrocarbons may be further processed into vehicle fuels using traditional oil refining techniques. This process eliminates the costs and challenges associated with obtaining, transporting, and processing cellulosic feedstocks into vehicle fuels. One of the microbes is Synechococcus, a naturally occurring Cyanobacterium that takes sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water and creates carbon-based food molecules for the second culture. The second microbe is Shewanella, which converts the food into more complex hydrocarbons. The two organisms have evolved naturally as symbiotic co-cultures and do not require genetic engineering to be compatible.

MN-IP Try and Buy
This technology is available via a standard negotiated license agreement. Contact Eric Hockert for specific details.

Optimizing Vehicle Fuel Precursors

The Shewanella bacteria naturally produce hydrocarbons but the University of Minnesota clarified the key protein responsible for fuel production, OleA and recently obtained the proteins's crystal structure. Based on this knowledge, experiments are currently in process to optimize fuel production through both metabolic engineering and optimization of OleA.


  • Synthesizes long-chain hydrocarbons directly from sunlight, water, and CO2, without cellulosic feedstock, using co-cultured microbes
  • Lower capital and operating expense.
  • Higher energy content in resulting vehicle fuels compared to ethanol
  • Minimal processing steps
  • Funded through an ARPA-E grant
  • Avoids reliance on large amounts of agricultural land and uses carbon dioxide as a feedstock