The identification of key proteins in a group of heat-loving bacteria by researchers at the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center could help light a fire under next-generation biofuel production.
Scientists have long been on the hunt for cost-effective ways to break down complex plant material such as switchgrass in order to access sugars that are fermented to make biofuels. Conventional processes involve the addition of commercially produced enzymes to break down the cellulose. BESC scientists are exploring alternative options, including the use of certain bacteria that are naturally capable of deconstructing plant biomass in their environment.
To better understand the mechanisms behind this microbial ability, a team of researchers from North Carolina State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Georgia analyzed the genomes of eight species of bacteria from the genus Caldicellulosiruptor. These bacterial species, found in globally diverse sites from New Zealand to Iceland to Russia, can degrade plant biomass at extremely high temperatures.
ORNL Press Release; http://www.ornl.gov/info/press_releases/get_press_release.cfm?ReleaseNumber=mr20120702-00
View the publication at; http://bioenergycenter.org/besc/publications/blumer_schuette_caldi_yr5.pdf
Ethanol Producer Magazine Interview at; http://www.ethanolproducer.com/articles/8920/heat-loving-bacteria-could-lead-to-next-generation-microbe