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Fungus Genes Could Help Make Ethanol From Wood Chips and Switchgrass

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According to a group of scientists, genes copied from a common fungus could make the production of ethanol from wood chips and grass (abundant materials) much easier. If this experiment will be a success, it could one day help ethanol compete with gasoline.

Scientists collected genes from a fungus that grows on dead plants, and transplanted them into yeast that is already used to convert sugar into ethanol. After this operation, the genes let the yeast ferment parts of plants, streamlining the production of ethanol.

“It’s just a more efficient process. Shaving off every dime that you can could make it compete with oil,” says Jamie Cate, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley and at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Thanks to this new technique, ethanol producers would no longer have to break cellulose down into simple sugars. They would only need to break down cellulose into cellodextrin, an intermediate material. This way, the entire production process will be more efficient, removing steps that cost money and time.

[Source: Technology Review]

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