Panda Poo Could be Key to Cheaper, Cleaner Biofuels

Scientists from Mississippi State University have discovered that panda poocould hold the answers to faster, cleaner and cheaper biofuels.

It has long been suspected that animals like pandas that each giant amounts of tough plant matter every day have bacteria in their digestive systems that are especially efficient at breaking down the cellulose in plants into nutrients. The hope is that those bacteria could make a big difference in the production of biofuels from tougher, non-food plants, like switchgrass, corn stalks and wood chips.  After collecting panda feces from the Memphis Zoo for over a year, researchers found that was definitely the case.

So far the scientists have identified several types of digestive bacteria from the feces. Some are similar to those found in termite feces, but the study has shown the bacteria in the panda feces could be even better at breaking down cellulose than those in termites.

Based on this study and others, the researchers believe that the panda gut bacteria could convert 95 percent of plant biomass into simple sugars.  The enzymes in this bacteria are so potent that they can eliminate the need for heat, acids or high pressure processes in the manufacture of biofuels. Eliminating those processes would make biofuel production less energy intensive, faster and, of course, cheaper.

Researchers are working on identifying every bacteria present in panda intestines in order to single out the most potent of the enzymes.  Those enzymes could be put into yeasts through genetic engineering, which would allow for the mass production of those enzymes for the biofuel industry.

via Physorg

Source / Fuente:

Author / Autor: Megan Treacy

 Date / Fecha: 29/08/11

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