NREL: Enzyme that can digest cellulose twice as fast may speed biomass fuel conversion

By: InnovatioNews Thursday January 9, 2014 0 comments Tags: biofuels, Golden, NREL, Yannick Bomble

NREL logoGOLDEN - Researchers at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced they have discovered that an enzyme from a microorganism first found in Russia in 1990 can digest cellulose almost twice as fast as the current leading component cellulase enzyme on the market.

NREL said if the enzyme continues to perform well in larger tests, it could help drive down the cost of making lignocellulosic fuels -- from ethanol to other biofuels -- that can be used in existing infrastructure.

A paper reporting the finding, "Revealing Nature's Cellulase Diversity: The Digestion Mechanism of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii CeIA" can be seen in the journal Science.

"CeIA is the most efficient single cellulose we've ever studied by a large margin," said Yannick Bomble, NREL scientist.

"It is an amazingly complex enzyme, combining two catalytic domains with three binding molecules. The fact that it has two complementary catalytic domains working in concert most likely makes it such a good cellulose degrader."

NREL said if an enzyme can produce sugars more efficiently, it means a lower cost for producing the enzyme "cocktail" that is the major cost driver in the process of converting biomass into fuel.

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