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DoE: Gene could increase biomass yield

Researchers have located the gene controlling ethanol production capacity in a microorganism, which could lead to increased biomass ethanol yield at lower costs.

By Kari Williamson

The researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DoE) BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) says the clostridium thermocellum could be used to genetically modify biomass plants to produce more ethanol, avoiding the use of expensive enzymes to break down plants’ barriers guarding the sugars.

The microorgamisms could produce their own enzymes unlocking the sugars in biomass and fermenting them into ethanol in a single step.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu says: “This discovery is an important step in developing biomass crops that could increase yield of ethanol, lower production costs and help reduce our reliance on imported oil.”

BESC is led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is one of three DoE Bioenergy Research Centers established by the DoE's Office of Science in 2007. The team’s results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The invention is available for licensing.

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