A team of genetic engineers reports it has developed an inexpensive process that uses fungus to convert raw materials such as straw and sawdust into a productive biofuel.
While it was previously known that the Trichoderma fungus produces the enzymes needed to break down such lignocellulosic wastes into a form of biofuel, the process was prohibitively expensive since the molecular switch required stimulation from a pure substance known as disaccharide sophorose, which is worth 60 times more than gold.
Through genetic analysis, scientists from the Vienna University of Technology identified the specific gene that triggers the process — as well as the protein that the gene mutation affects — enabling them to mimic the same mutation in other strains of fungus.
“We have understood the mechanism of this molecular switch and, consequently, many wonderful possibilities are opening up for us,” said Astrid Mach-Aigner, project group leader of the study published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.