Enhanced Enzyme Hydrolysis of Biomass

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Background: The cellulose found in abundance in wood grasses and other plant matter (biomass) is a rich largely untapped sugar source for ethanol production. Cellulose is a polymer of hundreds to thousands of glucose units that is ubiquitous in plant cell walls. The cellulase family of enzymes has been exploited to break cellulose down into glucose for use as a feedstock in bioethanol production. The nature of cellulose in biomass poses a number of challenges to attaining high glucose yield. In biomass cellulose occurs in large particles that include the other polymers hemicellulose and lignin. Cellulase cannot penetrate beneath the surface of these particles and lignin can bind and compete for cellulase enzymes reducing the glucose yield per unit of cellulose. Technology Description: Researchers at Purdue University have assembled a suite of techniques that overcome many of the challenges in extracting 6 carbon sugars from cellulose sources to achieve high (>95%) glucose yields while greatly reducing the amount of expensive cellulase enzyme needed. The raw biomass is prepared in such a way as to reduce particle size and remove hemicellulose. A non-specific binding protein is also added to coat lignin freeing more cellulase enzyme to react with cellulose. These improvements in producing glucose from cellulose are important steps towards producing ethanol from biomass on a larger scale. Applications: Ethanol production

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