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article imageEnzymes from horse feces may help with biofuel production

By Tim Sandle     Apr 16, 2013 in Science
Finding the magic catalyst for biofuel production is a major industrial aim. Scientists have outlined the discovery of a potential range of suitable enzymes in fungi thriving in the feces and intestinal tracts of horses.
Research led by Michelle A. O'Malley has been looking at new catalysts for the manufacture of biofuels. Biofuels can be made from different materials, according to Discovery News.
A biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. One way to make biofuels is from plant biomass. Cellulosic biomass, for example, is derived from non-food sources, such as trees and grasses, is also being developed as a feedstock for ethanol production.
One problem with releasing the potential power of cellulose is that the material is sealed away inside a tough network of lignin within the cell walls of plants.
The current process, Phys Org summarizes, involves removing lignin through an expensive pre-treatment process. After this, a collection of enzymes breaks cellulose down into sugars. Finally, those sugars become food for microbes to ferment into alcohol, which can then be used as a biofuel.
As a way to make this process more efficient, researchers have discovered a fungus from the digestive tract that can efficiently convert materials into sugars. It contains rang of useful enzymes which could potentially reduce the cost of biofuels.
The research came from a collaboration between the University of California, Santa Barbara, collaborated, the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
The latest developments were reported to the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) during April 2013.
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