Scientific discoveries can be made anywhere, but it’s probably safe to say that the last place one would think to look is in animal feces. Yes, I am talking about poop and not just any poop, great panda poop. In research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, bacteria found in panda feces could be a key in helping reduce human reliance on oil for fuel.
The key issue in the production of biofuels is being able to maximize the breakdown of raw plant material. Bacteria from panda poop could potentially solve this issue since it has been observed to break down tough plant material known as lignocelluloses. Being able to use the panda bacteria will allow us to use plants containing lignocelluloses such as switch grass, corn stalks and wood chips instead of food sources like corn and soybean.
According to the study, the panda bacteria can turn 95% of plant material to simple sugars. As a result, the pace of making cellulosic biofuels could be increased as well as be made cheaper.
Currently, more research is being done to identify the specific bacteria that will able digest plant material most efficiently. Once that is established scientist could use technology to put those enzymes into yeast allowing the mass production of the enzymes for the biofuel industry.
Discussion Question: What are some advantages of using lignocelluloses in plants such as switch grass for making biofuels over food crops (soybeans, corn sugar) that are presently used to making biofuels?
News Story : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110829131253.htm
Press Release: http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg
Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Giant_Panda_Tai_Shan.JPG
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