Feeds

Biofuel boffins pimp panda poo

Breaking down the tough stuff

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.