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Scientists Find Way to Break Down Biomass 30 Times faster

Scientists from Imperial College London have found a method to accelerate the process of breaking down biomass by 30 times.

This will lead to producing biofuels and recycling plastics in a faster, cheaper and in a more environmental friendly way. The scientists found a way to accelerate the bioprocessing of biomass.

Bioprocessing refers to using the biological or metabolical process of living cells. These leaving cells or their components are used to make products like biofuels, plastics, medicines, and cosmetics. This bioprocessing is time consuming and expensive.

The scientists modified the glucosidase enzyme which helps to break down complex carbohydrates in biomass (cellulose for instance) into their basic units, glucose. The glucose is fermented to make ethanol, a form of biofuel.

Releasing glucose from cellulose is a very expensive and time consuming process. The technical reasons are that enzymes stop working at temperatures higher than 70 °C or when in contact with industrial solvents like ionic liquids.

The scientists found a technique to make enzyme work in higher temperatures and with ionic liquids.

The findings were published in Nature Chemistry.