A new enzyme developed at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) could cut the cost of lignocellulosic biomass conversion by producing sugars 14 times more quickly than current catalysts, Renewable Energy World reports.
The new enzyme, CelA, is a cellulase from the bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii. It’s more effective because it works on two major components of biomass, cellulose and xylan, not just one, captures more material more effectively, and operates at much higher temperatures than other enzymes.
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“High temperatures mean faster action,” Scanlon writes. “Also, because it can operate above the boiling point of alcohol, the alcohol is separated naturally, saving a costly step in the conversion process—and the high temperatures kill many of the microorganisms that would otherwise interfere with the process.”
“If you can achieve in one day what typically takes seven,” said NREL Senior Scientist Roman Brunecky, “that can have a huge economic impact.”