Biofuels with guts

March 9, 2016

Harnessing the ability of goats to digest almost anything organic may help to create the next generation of lower-cost biofuels.

Easy to digest: the fungi found in goat intestines possess a comprehensive variety of biomass-degrading enzymes
Easy to digest: the fungi found in goat intestines possess a comprehensive variety of biomass-degrading enzymes

The gut fungi found in the intestines of goats possess a large range of biomass-degrading enzymes. Scientists from the University of California in the US have now applied these enzymes to the challenge of breaking down woody – lignocellulosic – materials into biofuels.

The fungal kingdom is already the source of almost all industrial enzymes in use for lignocellulose bioprocessing.

“Anaerobic gut fungi isolated from herbivores produce a large array of biomass-degrading enzymes that synergistically degrade crude, untreated plant biomass, and are competitive with optimised commercial preparations from aspergillus and trichoderma,” the researchers said.

Professor Michelle O’Malley, the lead author from the University of California explained: “Because gut fungi have more tools to convert biomass to fuel, they could work faster and on a larger variety of plant material. That would open up many opportunities for the biofuel industry.”

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