At the University of California, biology is being used to solve engineering problems. Researchers are investigating how current operations running on non-renewables can be replaced with renewable ones. They are using things such as manure, sewage and plant matter and a variety of bacteria and organisms to create compounds.
One billion tons of protein waste was produced in the year 2008. Currently, it is left to aerobically compost (disintegrate when in contact with fresh air) and in turn, release green house gases such as nitrous oxide and methane. These two gases are 325x more potent than the compound thought to be responsible for global warming, CO2. UCLA's solution to this problem is to create cars that run on poop. Yes, poop.
Advanced biofuels are the main focus of this research at the University of California. Ethanol turns out to not be such a great alternative due to it's lack of dense energy that our current liquid transportation fuels presently offers; it also corrosive to metal. The bacteria in manure and human waste uses protein to grow. They are attempting to engineer bacteria (Bacillus subtilis) to produce alcohol and ammonia to fuel a combustion engine. So far, they have yet to release a compound that can rival that of ethanol or gasoline.
Researchers are trying to further studies and get a higher yield out of the bacteria found in waste to make it viable to bring to market. The UCLA prides itself on being an engine for new ideas. They are proudly supported by the US department of Energy, which enables them to work at an industrial scale.
Find more research at: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/