Bugs that Turn Whole Plants into Sugar

Van Mensvoort
March 24th 2009

Remember the bacteria that eat waste and shit petrol? How about some microbes that eat plant waste and turn it in to sugar? Now you might say you have no need for sugar as you prefer diet-products. Sugar however, can be used to create ethanol, which in turn can be used to drive your car. Now that you want.

Biotech startup Zymetis has genetically modified a very rare, cellulose-eating bacterium to break down and convert cellulose into sugars. The bug was accidentally discovered twenty years ago and has not been found in the wild since. The special feature of the bug is that it can break down entire cell structures of plants, contrary to most microbes who can only play a small part within a larger ecosytem.

The company recently completed its first commercial-scale trial. Earlier this year, the modified microbe was ran through a series of tests in large fermenters. Results learn it was able to convert one ton of cellulosic plant fiber into sugar in 72 hours. According to the biotechnologist this illustrates the organism's potential in helping to produce ethanol cheaply and efficiently at industrial scales.

Related: Bacteria that eat waste and shit petrol, Bacteria bots, Driving on AlgueGreen Blues, Giant plush microbes,

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Joyce Nabuurs: To me this question seems to be a logical next step in the emancipation movement of the past century. More and more women entered the workspace, but the responsibility for pregnancy and childrearing remained female.

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