Researchers Harvest Enzymes From Heat-Loving Fungi for Cheaper Biofuels
October 3, 2011 1:17 PM
comment(s) - last by
Some of nature's most extreme little fungi could help pretreat auto fuel feedstocks in the near future
Researchers at the
U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genomics Institute
(JGI) have been busy tracking down new enzymes that can pretreat feedstocks for biofuels at higher temperatures.
evolved a host of proteins
that can break down a multitude of commonly occuring natural compounds. The enzymes' catalysts operate at a speed largely depend on the temperature. Higher temperatures means faster reactions, typically, but it also can cause protein denaturation (when proteins lose their carefully ordered structure, via the disolution of hydrogen bonds, etc.). Thus organisms who operate at higher temperatures require special denaturation-resistant enzymes, but have the advantage of being able to prcoess materials faster.
With biofuels the biggest challenge is converting cellulose -- the primary sugar found in common biomass feedstocks, like fast growing grasses -- into individual sugars that can be fermented. To do that scientists have
borrowed enzymes from nature
The key to making biofuel is to break down cellulose -- the starchy sugar found in plant biomass. There's slight differences in biomass between woody plants and grasses. [Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Current generation enzymes operate at around 20°C-35°C (68°F-95°F) -- in the range varying from room temperature to nearly the human body temperature. However, these enzymes process materials too slowly, allowing contamination, which in turn reduces yields and makes the resulting biofuel more expensive.
The DOE JGI researchers proposed finding higher temperature enzymes. They successfully identified some such potential enzymes by comparing the genomes of Thielavia terrestris and Muceliophthora thermophila, fungi which thrive at high-temperature environments of 45°C or above.
The thermophilic fungus
[Source: Adrian Tsang, Concordia University]
Randy Berka from Novozymes in Davis, Calif., joined the researchers in the work and writes in the report, "Thermostable enzymes and thermophilic cell factories may afford economic advantages in the production of many chemicals and biomass-based fuels. Thermophilic fungi are well-known composting organisms, and their usefulness as a reservoir for thermotolerant enzymes was established decades ago. These two thermophiles can be considered all-purpose decomposers with respect to their carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) and their ability to degrade plant polysaccharides."
The team found that the family of glycoside hydrolase enzymes was expanded in the thermophile ("heat loving") fungi to break single, fermentable sugars off polysaccharides (chains of single sugars) at a variety of temperatures. Such a range was not present in the more common fungus
Thus researchers believe the 38.7-million base pair (Mbp) genome of
and the 36.9 Mbp genome of
offers the blueprint to dramatic acceleration of enzymatic breakdown of cellulose, reducing impurities, improving yields, and dropping costs.
Comments DOE JGI Fungal Genomics head Igor Grigoriev, who helped lead the research team, "These thermophilic fungi represent excellent hosts for biorefineries where biomass is converted to biofuels as an alternative to modern oil refineries. The fact that these organisms not only deliver a broad spectrum of heat-tolerant enzymes but can also host new enzymes and be optimized for industrial processes holds great promise for significant improvements over existing systems."
DOE JGI Fungal Genomics head Igor Grigoriev helped lead the study on thermophile fungal enzymes. [Source: DOE JGI]
The bacterial enzymes proved efficient at breaking down biomass of both major groups of flowering plants -- Monocotyledonae (grasses, orchids, palms) and Eudicotyledonae (trees and some garden flowers).
The key to further lowering costs will be to synthetically select the bacteria to produce superior versions of the cellulose-chewing enzymes and to overproduce the enzyme(i.e. overexpress). Currently enzymatic pretreatment of cellulose biomass remains
more expensive than other techniques such as plasma gasification
. However, with this new work, the cost of enzymatic biomass pretreatment creeps closer to the cost of these alternative methods.
The new work was funded by the DOE and was
[abstract] in the October 2 edition of the prestigious peer-reviewed journal
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Stupid idea
10/3/2011 8:14:27 PM
N Koreans get bruised butts.
"This is about the Internet. Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
LS9's Biodiesel E. Coli Now "Pooping" a Host of Useful Organics
January 28, 2010, 12:52 PM
Inside The Magic Box -- How Coskata Will Deliver $1/Gallon Ethanol
October 14, 2008, 3:51 PM
Sugar Fueled Cars Get Closer To Reality
April 11, 2008, 1:31 PM
Tesla’s Elon Musk Says that Fully Autonomous Vehicles Are Still at Least 5 Years Away
September 19, 2014, 9:48 AM
Quick Note: Kia Soul EV Priced from $33,700
September 11, 2014, 5:32 PM
Production Infiniti LE Electric Sedan Leaked in Patent Drawings
September 9, 2014, 10:32 AM
"Decepticon" Driver Triumphs Over Cops in Massachusetts Court
September 5, 2014, 12:07 PM
Tesla Motors Confirms Nevada Gigafactory Deal, Will Receive $1.25B in Tax Breaks
September 4, 2014, 8:24 PM
Mazda Unveils the 2016 MX-5 Miata, Drops 220 Pounds and 3" in Length
September 3, 2014, 8:59 PM
Most Popular Articles
HTC Preps Nexus 9 With Nvidia K1 64-Bit "Denver" SoC, Android L Onboard
September 10, 2014, 10:21 PM
Quick Note: Buy an Xbox One Sept 7-13, Get a Free Game
September 4, 2014, 10:42 AM
Apple Announces Its Smartwatch: The $349 Apple Watch
September 9, 2014, 2:09 PM
Dell Announces "World's Thinnest" Tablet: The Venue 8 7000 Series
September 11, 2014, 8:51 AM
T-Mobile Launches Un-carrier 7.0, Beefs Up Wi-Fi Calling
September 11, 2014, 2:56 PM
Latest Blog Posts
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
Tesla vs. BMW: Who Has the Safer EV?
Feb 1, 2014, 2:56 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information