Scientists enhance bioprocessing for cheap and environmentally friendly production of biofuels, according to a study published on June 25, 2018.
This study was conducted by the scientists at the Imperial College London. According to them, plant-based biomass can be broken down 30 times faster than it is usually done. The glucosidase enzyme that helps in breaking down the complex carbohydrates present in biomass was modified by Dr. Alex Brogan, of Imperial College London’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and colleagues. Then, the glucose can be fermented to make ethanol, which is a form of biofuel.
Extracting glucose from cellulose is an expensive and time consuming part of the process, as enzymes do not work at temperatures higher than 70 °C and when it is in industrial solvents like ionic liquids. Therefore, scientists altered the chemical structure of the enzyme to let it withstand heat of up to 137 °C. Also, the enzyme can now be used in ionic liquids instead of the usual water. They found that the combined effect of heat resistance and solubility in ionic liquids increased the glucose output 30-fold. If the technique is taken up on a large scale, fuel-related carbon emissions could fall by 80-100 per cent.
Dr. Brogan said, “We’ve made bioprocessing faster, which will require less equipment and will reduce carbon footprint. One major advantage of this will be increased biofuel production — potentially helping biofuels become more widespread as a result.” Furthermore, this alteration can be applied to a wide variety of enzymes, for various applications such as making fuels from waste and recycling plastics, thereby making bioprocessing more efficient.