New enzyme-based biofuel technology? Scientists break it down

Researchers at Imperial College London have enhanced the process of turning plant-based biomass into valuable products

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New biological processes mean enzymes could help break down plant-based biomass into sustainable fuels up to 30-times faster than previously possible.

That’s according to new research from scientists at Imperial College London, who claim to have enhanced the process of using biology to make products such as fuels, plastics, medicines and cosmetics, which often proves quite expensive and time consuming.

They say the new process could lead to cheaper and more environmentally-friendly biofuel production, as well as more efficient plastic recycling.

The scientists modified the glucosidase enzyme, which helps break down complex carbohydrates in biomass such as cellulose into glucose.

This glucose can then be fermented to make the fuel ethanol.

The researchers tweaked glucosidase to be able to withstand heat of up to 137°C. accelerating the previously lengthy process.

They believe if the technique is taken up on a large scale, fuel-related carbon emissions could fall by between 80% to 100%.

Lead Author Dr Alex Brogan said: “We’ve made bioprocessing faster, which will require less equipment and will reduce carbon footprint.

“One major advantage of this will be increased biofuel production – potentially helping biofuels become more widespread as a result.”

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