News | Nov 27, 2019

Air Force microbiologist patents anti-microbial fuel additive

Available to industry via license agreement

Air Force fuel technicians pull an all-level sample from a tanker truck at a tank truck offload facility on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, July 25, 2019.

Jonathan Valdes Montijo/Air Force

DAYTON, Ohio–A scientist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has discovered that special proteins can keep microbes from colonizing inside fuel tanks and degrading the fuels–especially biodiesel.

Dr. Oscar Ruiz, director and lead scientist at the lab’s Fuel Biodeterioration Research Program, found that dipeptides can be used to stop the efflux pump, a component of the microbial membrane that pushes toxic substances out.

Through technology transfer, Ruiz’s discovery could become a product for energy companies to use, and a business opportunity that benefits the military and taxpayers.

“Bacteria have been isolated from fuels, fuel storage tanks, aircraft wing tanks, and offshore oil platforms, in which the bacteria may cause problems, according to U.S. Patent 10,487,281, which was issued to the Ruiz and the Air Force on Tuesday.

“Such as tank corrosion, fuel pump failures, filter plugging, injector fouling, topcoat peeling, engine damage, and deterioration of fuel chemical properties and quality.”

Contamination and degradation is especially problematic for biodiesel, which often contains fatty acid methyl esters that can be metabolized by microbial organisms.

Business Opportunity

In support of the Air Force’s Technology Transfer Program, TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, is helping qualified industry partners review the fuel additive’s commercial potential and understand the patent licensing process that is part and parcel of commercializing government research.

Through technology transfer, private companies can turn Air Force-developed technology into new products sold to military or civilian customers.

Inquiries from interested businesses can be sent to Joan Wu-Singel, senior technology manager at TechLink, by email at jwu-singel@montana.edu or 406-994-7705.