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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Fuels & Renewable Energy

Termite Enzymes Turn Wood into Biofuel

Termite digestion produces enzymes that turn wood into gas!

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Biomimicry research on termites to produce biofuels from wood Researchers have identified wood-digesting enzymes exuded by bacteria living in the bellies of termites.

The discovery follows a genome-wide analysis of bacteria from the hindgut of the Nasutitermes termite species in Costa Rica, published in the science journal Nature.

The efficient processes insects use to turn wood into food could one day be harnessed in factories to transform wood into fuel as an alternative to food crops.

Making gasoline substitutes from wood -- a plentiful but tougher biomass source -- has been found in biomimicry of termites, whose appetite for wood causes damage to homes worldwide. Their intestines are efficient bioreactors, or chemical processing chambers.

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, the California Institute of Technology and Verenium Corp, a biotechnology company used industrial-scale DNA sequencing to show that the guts of termites contain a huge range of bacterial genes responsible for making many previously unknown enzymes.

The next step will be to identify the precise role of these enzymes to synthesize them for use in engineering and manufacturing which can convert wood into biofuels such as hydrogen or ethanol.

SOURCE: Reuters



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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