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A new study recently showed that the discovery of a novel enzyme that emits a valuable chemical substance from agricultural waste could offer an essential breakthrough in the upscaling of chemicals and renewable fuels.

A Mirage News report said that researchers, headed by the University of York, have identified an enzyme in a fungus that can function as a catalyst to lead to a chemical reaction that's breaking down lignocellulose.

Lignocellulose, as explained in ScienceDirect, exists in forestry and agricultural waste like wheat straw for one, was used in this particular study.

For such a long time, it has been considered by science experts that this dry matter could be utilized as a sustainable resource for fuel and chemical production if a way of breaking it down could be found in order for it to be effectively processed.

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Science Times - ‘Dominating Fungus’: Essential Breakthrough in Chemical and Biofuel Production, Research Shows
(Photo: Energy.gov on Wikimedia Commons)
At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Aspergillus Niger, shown here with its DNA lit up in green is a fungus that can be used on an industrial scale to ‘grow’ important chemicals such as citric acid. Understanding its genes will help researchers tame it for other purposes, such as grow biofuels to replace fossil fuels.

Renewable and Sustainable Resource

According to Professor Neil Bruce, from the Department of Biology and Director of the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, they believe this discovery is essential as there is much interest in the use of lignocellulose as a renewable and sustainable resource for fuel and chemical production.

He also said that even though lignocellulose is one of the richest forms of fixed carbon in the biosphere, using lignocellulose as a material for the supply for bioindustry has been hindered by both its composition and structure, rendering it extremely unmoved to degradation.

This is partly due to the existence of lignin, a multifaceted aromatic polymer that encloses the structure to block the accessibility of enzymes. To date, there are no industrial biocatalytic procedures when it comes to breaking down lignin.

Generation of Biofuels

The study investigators found though that an enzyme a fungus produced, which is identified as Parascedosporium putredinis NO1, can burst through the lignin to start the important process of degradation required to eventually generate biofuels.

P. putredinis NO1, Professor Bruce explained, is not able to take over cultures in the final stages of the degradation of wheat straw in a mixed bacterial community when simply or effortlessly accessible polysaccharides have been exhausted.

The professor also said that they demonstrate that treatments with this discovered enzyme can increase the digestibility of lignocellulosic biomass, providing the probability or plausibility of generating a valuable product from lignin while reducing costs of processing.

This study entitled "A multi-omics approach to lignocellulolytic enzyme discovery reveals a new ligninase activity from Parascedosporium putredinis NO1," was in partnership with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center of the Department of Energy, at the Wisconsin Energy Institute, and the University of Wisconsin, United States. It is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or PNAS journal.

Earlier on, in 2020, a related report on biofuels came out stating that finding replacements for fossil fuels is important in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and lessening the impairment resulting from climate change.

A study at that time looked into the use of biofuel and bioenergy systems for the replacement of fossil fuels. Specifically, Colorado State University researchers published the then first study that looked at carbon-negative biofuels generated from a common gas.

Related information is shown on Harvard Museum of Natural History's YouTube video below:

RELATED ARTICLE: Biofuels Made From Common Grass Could Replace Fossil Fuels

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