To electronically receive the latest news about UC Davis, subscribe to GetNews@ucdavis.edu.
News for faculty and staff
Help for the news media
Graduate student Gabriel Rodriguez (left) and Shota Atsumi, assistant professor of chemistry, test the scent of a bacterial culture engineered to make sweet-smelling esters. (Andy Fell/UC Davis photo)
Fresh banana, a waft of flowers, blueberry: The scents in Shota Atsumi's laboratory in the UC Davis Department of Chemistry are a little sweeter than most.
That's because Atsumi and his team are engineering bacteria to make esters — molecules widely used as scents and flavorings, and also as basic feedstock for chemical processes from paints to fuels.
Their latest work is published March 9 in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
Nearly all industrial chemicals, from artificial flavorings to paint, are derived from oil or gas, Atsumi said.
"Our motivation is to make chemicals from renewable sources instead," Atsumi said. Scents and flavorings make up a $20 billion industry worldwide, he said.