Feeds

Biofuel boffins pimp panda poo

Breaking down the tough stuff

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.