Feeds

Biofuel boffins pimp panda poo

Breaking down the tough stuff

High performance access to file storage

Pandas are famous for a restricted and difficult diet: the bamboo they favour takes a lot of digesting to yield enough energy to keep them going.

Naturally enough, then, the tricks that the panda has evolved to survive turn out to be quite potent at breaking down plant material – and according to the American Chemical Society, that could make them an unlikely hero in the development of biofuels.

Dr Ashli Brown of Mississippi State University reported to the American Chemical Society’s national meeting that bacteria present in panda droppings could help pave the way to using “difficult” plants like grasses, wood chips and waste.

In particular, Dr Brown says the bacteria are promising in breaking down the very tough lignocellulose, a combination of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. If high-lignocellulose materials could be used as biofuel feedstock, it would reduce the industry’s reliance on food crops.

Examining the panda droppings, Dr Brown and her colleagues found that some of the bacteria they identified are similar to those found in termites.

“Our studies suggest that bacteria species in the panda intestine may be more efficient at breaking down plant materials than termite bacteria and may do so in a way that is better for biofuel manufacturing purposes,” Dr Brown said.

Under some conditions, the group’s studies found that the bacteria can convert as much as 95 percent of plant biomass into simple sugars. Their enzymes are so efficient that they could operate without the high heat, acids or high pressures now used in biofuel production (which, along the way, gives better yield with lower energy inputs).

Dr Brown hopes to put the genes responsible for this efficient digestion into yeasts, which could be grown on a commercial scale to provide enzymes for the biofuel industry. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.