New research has found a way to make explosive compounds using bacteria commonly found soil - which could pave the way for cleaner alternatives to jet fuel.
And with fuel prices at record highs, some scientists think now is the time to grow the biofuel industry here.
"We have big agricultural and forestry industries, so there's a lot of feedstock - waste material - from these industries that we could give to our microorganisms," Auckland University Associate Professor Dr Gavin Lear told Focus.
Scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US were studying how to make polycyclopropanated (POP) compounds using the bacteria Streptomyces.
Some strains of Streptomyces can produce chemicals like 'Jawsamycin', named after the movie Jaws because of its teeth-like shape.
POP compounds can be highly explosive because they contain many cyclopropane rings, which are made of unstable carbon bonds - perfect for fuelling heavy vehicles.
Aeroplanes, rockets, and other heavy vehicles will need energy-dense fuels to power them in future.
But applying biotechnology like this "is a way that we can not just gain energy but help to clean [up] the environment at the same time", Lear said.
Although chemicals like jawsamycin can't replace jet fuel overnight, it's a good start to show how far biotechnology has come so we can meet our net-zero carbon obligations.
But scientists warn biofuels aren't totally sustainable yet either.
"In some [other] countries, crops like soybean and maize compete with agricultural land. I don't think in New Zealand we want to do that, but there is scope for us to utilise waste products to produce more sustainable fuels," said Lear.
Meanwhile, Auckland University's Dr Ghader Bashiri said it would take a long time to commercialise.
"We should always keep in mind that these are lab-scale things, and it takes a lot of effort to make them into viable commercial products," he said.
Despite biofuels in use by the aviation industry already, fossil fuels remain far cheaper, are more accessible and store huge amounts of energy, according to Bashiri.
"[But] in the long term, they're not sustainable. At some stage we will run out."
Despite the challenges of commercialising research-stage products like this, Bashiri says the paper is promising.
"What actually excited me about this paper is that they started looking into microbial world with that hypothesis that they might actually produce something that we could use as fuel."
Meanwhile, the latest surge in interest from airlines in sustainable aviation fuel has come as consumers and investors demand greener flying.
Air New Zealand launched a campaign to highlight its efforts to decarbonise its planes, called the Tiaki Promise.
Elsewhere, the Government has agreed in principle to implement a biofuels mandate as part of a range of measures to reduce carbon emissions.
Earlier this year Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined how it would help create long-term stability in the fuel market.
"You'll see right now, what we're experiencing is the impacts on our reliance on fossil fuels and on overseas markets," Ardern said.
"And so we do have to change the way we are accessing and the nature of our fuel supply."
In order to bring new biofuels to market, Bashiri says it's a similar story to Covid-19.
"All of sudden, when we needed it, everything came together to produce vaccines."
He argues the same strategy could be applied to biofuels - invest in the science now, and reap the rewards later.