For converting biomass into fuel certain steps have to be taken such as chemical pretreatment to break up the biomass with dilute sulfuric acid; detoxification to remove the toxic chemicals; then microbial fermentation to convert the soluble sugars into fuels. In a major breakthrough, Virginia Tech researchers claim to have discovered an enzyme mixture that is effective in the presence of the toxin-infused liquid biomass. Employment of this enzyme mixture possibly helps eliminate the detoxification step.
Exclusion of the detoxification step apparently reduces cost of producing biofuels and enhances biofuel yields by restricting the production of by-products and synthesis of cell mass. Since enzymes can self-assemble a cell-free synthetic pathway, they can be seemingly utilized for biological reactions to work without the other complex interactions that take place within a cell. The cell-free synthetic pathway process presumably improves efficiency and reaction rate.
The enzyme cocktail apparently consists of 12 purified enzymes and coenzymes which work in the presence of microorganism-toxic compounds from dilute-acid pretreated biomass. Enzyme systems may not require high-purity substrates for biotransformation. Hence, Y.H. Percival Zhang, associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and colleagues presume that pretreatment bioconversion can be conducted directly after chemical catalysis.
The research was published in the journal Chemistry and Biology.