A team of researchers from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering and Mascoma Corporation say they have found a way to produce genetically engineered bacteria that ferment cellulose to produce ethanol more efficiently.
The group reported last week that, tor the first time, they have been able to genetically engineer a thermophilic bacterium, capable of growing at high temperatures, and this new microorganism makes ethanol as the only product of its fermentation.
“Our discovery is one potential avenue for research to facilitate turning inedible cellulosic biomass, including wood, grass, and various waste materials, into ethanol,” said Dartmouth engineering professor Lee Lynd. “In the near term, the thermophilic bacterium we have developed is advantageous, because costly cellulase enzymes typically used for ethanol production can be augmented with the less expensive, genetically engineered new organism.”
Lynd explains that this discovery is only the first step for future development of ethanol-producing microbes that can make ethanol from cellulosic biomass without adding enzymes. Lynd is the corresponding author on the study and the chief scientific officer and co-founder of Mascoma Corporation, a company working to develop processes to make cellulosic ethanol.