University of Georgia researchers have invented a method to more efficiently decompose biomass, which lowers the cost of producing biofuel. The method centers around a bacterium called Caldicellulosiruptor, which as has unique properties that make it more conducive for processing a type of biomass known as lignocellulsic. The modification of the bacterium DNA will improve the efficiency of converting biomass into fuels. Furthermore, the researchers have developed general procedures that can be utilized across other sections of the bacterium species.
Dr. Adam’s group at The University of Georgia has discovered the identity of a group of genes that enable a microorganism to convert untreated woody plant biomass, such as poplar wood chips, to soluble materials that can be used by the same organism or by another to produce biofuels, such as hydrogen and ethanol. The discovery was made from an analysis of the genomes of two very closely related microorganisms Anaerocellum thermophilum and Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus, only one of which, Anaerocellum thermophilum, is able to grow on unprocessed woody plant biomass. The genes that confer this property to Anaerocellum thermophilum are termed PBU for plant biomass utilization. Many of the PBU genes are present in Anaerocellum thermophilum as gene clusters.