One of the ways in which global consumption of fossil fuels can be reduced is by augmenting the production of biofuels such as ethanol. However, ethanol production, for now, is largely restricted due to its primary reliance on corn, which is not available in enough quantities to take on the requirements of U.S. fuel needs. Feedstocks such as straw and woody plants might be a possible solution to this problem as they present in plentiful; however, they are toxic to yeast (microbes most commonly used for the production of biofuels).
To tackle this problem, researchers have now developed an approach that would be able to circumvent this toxicity, thus, making nonfood feedstock’s to be feasible sources for the production of biofuels. The new technique would be a huge contribution to the Biofuels Market as the study showed that the new strain was able to almost triple the cellulosic ethanol production to levels that come near to traditional corn ethanol. Further, it was demonstrated that this tolerance could be further engineered into yeast strains used for manufacturing other chemicals. Thus, potentially the ‘cellulosic’ woody plant material could be used as a source for bioplastics or biodiesel.
A research team tried to expand biofuel’s potential impact and discovered that a significant way to expand the use of a wide variety of non-food feedstocks to produce such fuels. The problem that subsisted till now was that feedstocks are difficult to use in biofuel production as they are required first be broken down into simple sugar. The process is done to achieve this, also results in the release of numerous byproducts that are toxic to the east, such as aldehyde.
Previously, the team had built a technique that made yeast tolerant to alcohol which is also toxic to yeast. In the study, they demonstrated that adding bioreactors with specific compounds could lead to the strengthening of the yeast membrane, which enabled yeast to survive in high concentrations of ethanol for a long time.
The researcher's made use of this study and successfully changed aldehydes into alcohol, thus resulting in the production of high yield. The new strain built by them helped to increase the cellulosic ethanol production level.
Further, their demonstrations prove that engineering aldehyde tolerance into yeast strains that have the ability to generate products such as diesel could be highly feasible. Biodiesel production and change therein would potentially have a huge impact on several industries such as shipping, heavy trucking, and aviation. The team revealed that their goal is to further extend this technology to other organisms that are even more suited for the production of heavy fuels like jet fuels, oil, and diesel.
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