Washington University lab trying to make gasoline from E. Coli

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The future is being developed right now in St. Louis.

They`re searching for a breakthrough in a Washington University laboratory

“Washington University researcher says: when our technology becomes mature is has the potential to change the world,” said Dr. Fuzhong Zhang.

Dr. Fuzhong Zhang and his students are trying to make gasoline from this: E.Coli. The same bacteria that`s found in a person`s intestines and could make a person sick may one day fuel a car. He received an $860,000 government award to make it happen.

“In the long run it will be less expensive,” stated Dr. Zhang.

Zhang`s research money came from DARPA, a part of the Department of Defense. The Pentagon budget`s is more than half a trillion dollars. Three billion dollars is spent by DARPA , the Defense Advance Research Project Agency.

“I think our research is going to be a huge benefit to everybody,” said Wash. U. student Gayle Bentley.

DARPA began back in 1958,Ike was president. And when the soviets put the satellite sputnik into space Americans feared we were losing the space race and falling behind in technology. DARPA was born.

Over the years the agency is credited with many achievements: brain control of prosthetics thus giving amputees better abilities, making electronics parts that dissolve in water which ensures that electronic devices left behind on the battlefield don`t fall into enemy hands. DARPA played a role in using sound to extinguish fires.

The agency`s goal is creating breakthrough technologies for national security. Citizens may end up using some of DARPAs creations.

DARPA had a role in G.P.S. and the internet. It`s roots date back to the 1960`s.

These days the agency has researchers building all kinds of robots, some that could rescue people trapped in a destroyed building, others that look like animals, one that can run 30 miles per hour and the list goes on.

Madden says: over the year companies like Boeing have been chosen for several DARPA projects.

The latest one the xs-1 calls for a much cheaper way to launch satellites into space.

Still, DARPA has its critics.

“Do we want it to be doing what we tasked it with,” writer Graham Templeton said.

Graham Templeton writes for web sites like extreme tech. In an interview on Skype Templeton told me he thinks citizens should be keeping a closer watch of DARPA.

“The whole reason for its existence is to make the U.S. military more frightening and more deadly but it needs to be in check somehow and right now it`s not being,” said Templeton.

Here are some projects currently on DARPA`s drawing board. The first ever guided 50 caliber bullets, tanks that dodge flying explosives, and for soldiers wounded in battle foam that can be injected into the body. It surrounds damaged organs and stops the bleeding giving the patient more time to get to surgery.

Dr. Zhang says, “(we`re) working on something really important really useful to society.”

It seems DARPA`s future is only limited by the imagination.

Some video for our story was provided by DARPA.

www.darpa.mil