An animated version of an enzyme that could accelerate the process of making cellulosic ethanol from woody plants and farm waste looks kind of like “a Technicolor dinosaur fossil chomping on dinner.”
National Renewable Energy Laboratory senior scientist Michael Crowley was awarded second place in the Department of Energy’s Electronic Visualization competition for his animated version of cellobiohydrolase Cel7A, “a vegetarian molecule that is nature’s primary agent for decaying plants.”
NREL scientists are modeling Cel7A with the idea of bioengineering a version that could speed up the production of cellulosic ethanol. The enzyme occurs naturally in fungi and termite guts that breaks down the tough complex carbohydrates in plant cell walls and turns them into a simpler form of sugar.
Incidentally, the top prize in the DOE contest was awarded for a visualization of Hurricane Katrina.