Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Significant Step Forward in Biofuels Quest

Published: Monday, December 23, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, December 23, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Researchers from the Department of Chemistry at York have discovered a family of enzymes that can degrade hard-to-digest biomass into its constituent sugars.

Scientists at the University of York have made a significant step in the search to develop effective second generation biofuels.

‘First generation’ biofuels have already made an impact in the search for renewable and secure energy sources particularly through the generation of bioethanol manufactured from easy-to-digest food sources such as corn starch. 

But the resulting need for energy crops is using up valuable arable land threatening food price stability and limiting the amount of biofuel that can be made in this way. 

The use of ‘difficult-to-digest’ sources, such as plant stems, wood chips, cardboard waste or insect / crustacean shells, offers a potential solution.  Fuel made from these sources is known as ‘second generation’ biofuels.  Finding a way of breaking down these sources into their constituent sugars to allow them to be fermented through to bioethanol is regarded as the ‘Holy Grail’ of biofuel research.  

Reported today in Nature Chemical Biology, the new research was led by Professor Paul Walton and Professor Gideon Davies at York and also involved Professor Bernie Henrissat, of CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, Marseille, France. It opens up major new possibilities in the production of bioethanol from sustainable sources.

By studying the biological origins and the detailed chemistry of the enzyme family, the researchers have shown that Nature has a wide range of methods of degrading biomass which humankind can now harness in its own endeavour to produce sustainable biofuels. 

Professor Walton says: “There’s no doubt that this discovery will have an impact on not only those researchers around the globe working on how to solve the problems associated with second generation biofuel generation, but—more importantly—also on the producers of bioethanol who now have a further powerful tool to help them generate biofuel from sustainable sources such as waste plant matter.”

The research at York was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). 

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Plant Variants Point the Way to Improved Biofuel Production
Manufacturing biofuels from food crop by-products such as straw could be made quicker and cheaper thanks to a new study led by scientists at the University of York.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Gene discovery could help to boost crop yields
A discovery by scientists at the University of York of a vital feature of a plant's temperature sensing and growth mechanism could help to increase yields from crops.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Scientific News
Ancestors of Land Plants Were Wired to Make the Leap to Shore
When the algal ancestor of modern land plants made the transition from aquatic environments to an inhospitable shore 450 million years ago, it changed the world by dramatically altering climate and setting the stage for the vast array of terrestrial life.
Photosynthesis Gene Could Help Crops Grow in Adverse Conditions
A gene that helps plants to remain healthy during times of stress has been identified by researchers at Oxford University.
Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells Could be "Suffocated" by Anti-diabetic Drug
A new study shows that pancreatic cancer stem cells (PancSCs) are virtually addicted to oxygen-based metabolism, and could be “suffocated” with a drug already used to treat diabetes.
Scientists Learn How to Predict Plant Size
VIB and UGent scientists have developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling.
Scientists Home In On Origin Of Human, Chimpanzee Facial Differences
A study of species-specific regulation of gene expression in chimps and humans has identified regions important in human facial development and variation.
Nanoporous Gold Sponge Makes Pathogen Detector
Sponge-like nanoporous gold could be key to new devices to detect disease-causing agents in humans and plants, according to UC Davis researchers.
Genetic Manipulation for Algal Biofuel Production
Studies of the genes involved in oil synthesis in microalgae allow scientists to use a gene promoter to increase algal production of triacylglycerols, which in turn enhances potential biofuel yields.
Phosphorous Fertilizer
UD researchers identify behaviors of nanoparticle that shows promise as nanofertilizer.
Marijuana Genome Unraveled
A study by Canadian researchers is providing a clearer picture of the evolutionary history and genetic organization of cannabis, a step that could have agricultural, medical and legal implications for this valuable crop.
Grape Waste Could Make Competitive Biofuel
The solid waste left over from wine-making could make a competitive biofuel, University of Adelaide researchers have found.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos