Berkeley Lab Researchers Find Way to Catalyze More Sugars from Biomass
April 07, 2013
Lynn Yarris (510) 486-5375 email@example.com
“Catalysis may initiate almost all modern industrial manufacturing processes, but catalytic activity on solid surfaces is poorly understood. This is especially true for the cellulase enzymes used to release fermentable sugars from cellulosic biomass for the production of advanced biofuels. Now, researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) through support from the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) have literally shed new light on cellulase catalysis.
PALM – for Photo-Activated Localization Microscopy – enables researchers to quantify how and where enzymes are binding to the surface of cellulose in heterogeneous surfaces, such as those in plant cell walls.
Using an ultrahigh-precision visible light microscopy technique called PALM – for Photo-Activated Localization Microscopy – the researchers have found a way to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails that can boost the yields of sugars for making fuels. Increasing the sugar yields from cellulosic biomass to help bring down biofuel production costs is essential for the widespread commercial adoption of these fuels.
From left, Jan Liphardt, Harvey Blanch and Doug Clark led the development of a way to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails that can boost the yields of sugars for making advanced biofuels. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)
‘The enzymatic breakdown of cellulosic biomass into fermentable sugars has been the Achilles heel of biofuels, a key economic bottleneck,’ says chemical engineer Harvey Blanch, one of the leaders of this research. ‘Our research provides a new understanding of how multiple cellulase enzymes attack solid cellulose by working in concert, an action known as enzyme synergy, and explains why certain mixtures of cellulase enzymes work better together than each works individually.’”
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A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California
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