Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have created a new enzyme that has the potential to create plants that are easier to convert into cellulosic ethanol.
“Increasing the ‘digestibility’ of plant matter is one main approach to making plants a viable alternative energy source,” said Brookhaven biochemist Chang-Jun Liu. Plants with less lignin in their cell walls are easier to break down and convert to fuel products.
The next step will be to see if it works in plants. The scientists will engineer plants with the gene for the new enzyme to see if it reduces the amount of lignin in the plant cell walls.
“Since we know less lignin makes cell walls easier to digest, this may be an effective biochemical approach to engineering plants for more efficient biofuel production,” Liu said.