Until now, biofuels have been made up of hydrocarbon chains which are not truly compatible with most modern engines – they work inefficiently and may corrode the engine over time. For these biofuels to become a real alternative to fossil fuels, engines would have to be redesigned.

Now, sceintists at the University of Exeter have taken genes from the camphor tree, soil bacteria and blue-green algae and spliced them into DNA from E. coli bacteria. When the modified E. coli were fed glucose, the enzymes they produced converted it into fatty acids and then turned these into hydrocarbons that were chemically and structurally identical to those found in commercial petrol.

In the experiment, the E. coli were fed on glucose made from plants, but the researchers say that, if they were to scale-up, they could tweak the genes to produce enzymes that would allow the bacteria to feed on straw or animal manure.

University of Exeter researcher, John Love, says that "We are biologically producing the fuel that the oil industry makes and sells".