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This one-step route to cellulosic ethanol features a multitasking yeast

By Tetsuo Satoh |

The research group of professor Akihiko Kondo at Kobe University (Kobe City, www2.kobe-u.ac.jp/~akondo/index_English.htm) has developed a one-step, pretreatment process for making bioethanol from cellulose and lignocellulose. The process uses an ionic liquid — which converts cellulose into a gel — and a genetically engineered yeast (arming yeast) that incorporates multiple enzymes at the cell surface for breaking down cellulose into fermentable sugars. The pretreatment process takes place at a lower (100°C) temperature than that of conventional hydrolysis (which uses dilute sulfuric acid at a temperature of around 200°C) and does not have to deal with waste associated with the acid treatment. When the arming yeast is added to the gel, the enzymes decompose the cellulose into sugars, which are then fermented — by the same yeast — into ethanol. In laboratory trials, Kondo demonstrated that the arming yeast can survive in the presence of the ionic liquid, and that the method works for cellulose as well as bagasse, the lignin-containing waste from processing sugarcane. The researchers are now optimizing the process and seeking to lower the temperature even further with different ionic liquids. The one-step…
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