Powerful enzymes create ethanol from agricultural harvest waste

Jan 08, 2013

The DISCO project coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed powerful enzymes, which accelerate plant biomass conversion into sugars and further into products such as bioethanol. The project's results include lignin-tolerant enzymes and enzyme cocktails for processing spruce, straw, corn cob and wheat bran. The commercialisation of these enzymes has now begun in the Netherlands.

The EU's DISCO project developed powerful enzymes and enzyme cocktails suitable for various raw materials, with the purpose of converting agricultural side streams into fermentable sugars and further into products such as bioethanol. Plant biomass was chosen as the raw material for the project, since it contains lignocellulosic biomass, which is an abundant raw material.

The commercialisation process of the second-generation bioethanol industry, which uses lignocellulosic biomass instead of starch, has reached critical momentum: there are a total of 15 plants being constructed in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Lignocellulosic biomass use will substantially expand the market for industrial enzymes. The total industrial enzyme market is currently worth approximately 2.7 million euros per annum.

The raw materials studied in the project were spruce, straw, and used as . In Finland, the proportion of , and conifer biomass in particular, is significant.

Lignocellulosic biomass consists of cellulose, and lignin. Agricultural harvest waste contains large amounts of lignocellulosic biomass, which can be converted industrially into fermentable sugars with the help of enzymes. Microbes can then be used to produce various chemicals, such as bioethanol, from the sugars. Lignocellulosic biomass contains substantial amounts of lignin, which interferes with .

The DISCO project produced new knowledge on the inactivating property of lignin, which helped scientists develop enzymes that tolerate lignin better. New information on enzymes and activities that break down hemicellulose, vital for the efficient exploitation of plant biomass, was also obtained during the project.

British scientists participating in the project determined the structural characteristics of various raw materials. This information can be used to select appropriate enzyme cocktails for raw materials when upgrading .

The Dutch company Dyadic is currently commercialising the enzymes developed in the project.

Research Professor Kristiina Kruus of VTT coordinated the DISCO project, which had a total of 11 participants from seven countries. VTT's scientific role in the project related to discovering and developing enzymes from environmental samples as well as culture collections.

Explore further: Iberian pig genome remains unchanged after five centuries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chemicals and biofuel from wood biomass

Dec 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A method developed at Aalto University in Finland makes it possible to use microbes to produce butanol suitable for biofuel and other industrial chemicals from wood biomass. Butanol is particularly ...

Re-using enzymes in industry

May 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A South Dakota State University scientist is exploring ways to re-use enzymes in processes such as making cellulosic ethanol.

Recommended for you

Iberian pig genome remains unchanged after five centuries

4 hours ago

A team of Spanish researchers have obtained the first partial genome sequence of an ancient pig. Extracted from a sixteenth century pig found at the site of the Montsoriu Castle in Girona, the data obtained indicates that ...

New concepts based on advances in animal systematics

7 hours ago

The way in which most multicellular organisms have been classified has been the same for more than a century. Only recently have scientists developed the tools and knowledge to question the way we classify ...

New dawn for pasta wheat in Australia

10 hours ago

The University of Adelaide's durum breeding program today at the Hart Field Day will release a new durum wheat variety called DBA-Aurora which promises a step-change in potential durum production in southern Australia.

User comments : 0