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Back You are here: Home Renewables Bioenergy Ethanol Marine pest holds promise for better biofuel production


Marine pest holds promise for better biofuel production

Marine pest holds promise for better biofuel production
The marine wood borer known as the gribble causes significant damage to marine timber around the world

A wood boring pest – a bane to the shipping and lumber industries – could prove to be a boon to the cellulosic biofuel industry.

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The Limnoria quadripunctata, a marine wood borer commonly known as the gribble, is 1-3 millimeters in length and can quickly bore through wood causing significant natural and man-made marine timber damage around the world.

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Scientists at the Universities of Portsmouth and York in the United Kingdom, the University of Kentucky, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the United States, believe that the enzymes that allow the gribble to breakdown wood can be used to breakdown biomass for biofuel.

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Gribbles have the unique ability to produce their own enzymes instead of using symbiotic microbes to bread down biomass. They have a special organ termed the heptopancreas that produces these enzymes.

Several of the enzymes produced by gribbles are said to be of the same important enzyme classes that are used for industrially breaking down the cellulose in biomass to get to fermentable sugars. It’s hoped that the gribble enzymes could be made to operate in an industrial environment and be used to produce ethanol or hydrocarbon fuel from biomass sugars that could replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

“The structure of the gribble enzyme reveals new evolutionary adaptations that may suggest mechanisms for producing more robust, industrial enzymes for high-solids loadings environments,” said N.R.E.L. Senior Scientist Gregg Beckham.

Computer simulations were run on the gribble and structural and biochemical analysis were performed on the enzyme. This gave the scientists a better understanding of how it adapts and survives. The next step in the research would be to examine how the features of the gribble can be incorporated into industrially relevant enzymes and settings. – EcoSeed Staff

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