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Super Yeast Has the Power to Improve Economics of Biofuels

Power to Improve Economics of BiofuelsYeast has long stood as a staple ingredient for baking bread and brewing beer, but recent developments at the University of Wisconsin suggest that it may soon be making its way into fuel tanks as well. 

Researchers at the university published a report explaining that by isolating certain genetic mutations found in Saccharomyces cerevisiae—the yeast the scientists were using in their study—they could circumvent many of the challenges that the yeast poses when used to make biofuel.  Under the current biofuel-making process, yeast is used to convert the glucose contained within grasses, woods and other portions of plants, into biofuel.  But it is not nearly as adept at consuming xylose, the most common sugar contained in biomass, which represents half of the sugars available in plants. 

By altering the genetic makeup of yeast, scientists at the University of Wisconsin discovered that it was able to absorb all the sugars contained in the biomass it consumed.  The creation of this “super yeast”, as researchers have dubbed it, presents a breakthrough for the development of biofuels as a viable alternative to ethanol. 

Trey Sato, the study’s lead researcher, explained: “For cellulosic biofuels to become economically feasible, microbes need to be able to convert all of a plant’s sugars, including xylose, into fuel”.  By doubling the efficiency of biofuel production, super yeast may help drive eco-friendly biofuels into the mainstream.

Read the full story here.

Improving the energy efficiency of our nation’s vehicles is critical for the pursuance of environmental sustainability, but it is only one part of a much larger equation.  To see some of the other ways that green programs from ConEdison Solutions can drive long-term change, click here.  

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