Supercomputer shows how enzymes might 'dance' and rip apart cellulose used for biofuels

January 22 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 3

SanDiegocellulose

Corn is not the future of biofuels. It is a political distraction, and researchers are moving beyond crops for fuel.

We are moving quickly into an era of next generation biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol derived from waste materials, and algae fuels derived from carbon emission feedstocks.

Cellulosic ethanol is a particular challenge given the slow rate of speed associated with the breaking down sugar-rich materials (e.g. agricultural waste like corn cobs).  To develop faster, lower cost systems we must first understand how these proteins (enzymes called cellulases) do their magic of breaking down complex cellulose bonds into simple pieces of sugar.

Supercomputers open up new knowledge
Researchers at the San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC) are creating virtual molecules that might mimic how enyzmes 'dance' above a cellulose chain before it rips up a single sugar molecule feeding it into its 'molecular conveyor belt' to 'unzip' the bonds into basic sugars that can be fermented into a liquid fuel. 

Why supercomputers?  Few things in the world are as complicated as understanding the shape and movement (folding) of proteins, or the breaking down of strong cellulose walls.  Supercomputer simulations help us decode the secrets of molecular movement!

Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

Forget about corn, US pushing cellulosic ethanol'
Super enzymes' could lower cost of biofuel production

US releases National Biofuels Plan to accelerate next generation bioenergy solutions

List of 50 Hottest Biofuel companies from 2008

Penn State researchers advance cellulosic biofuels

SunEthanol is now 'Qteros', cellulosic startup raises $25 million to focus on next generation biofuels
Novozymes opens world's largest bioenergy solutions facility in the world. Yes, in China!

Wired article

Press Release
Image courtesy of National Science Foundation

 

Companies to watch:

Mascoma, Iogen, Verenium, Bluefire Ethanol Fuels, Pacific Ethanol, Novozyme, RangeFuels, Ceres, Coskata


Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. Another powerful example of the quantification of everything!

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   January 22, 2009
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  2. Alvis Yep… and then the twist (argued by folks like Craig Venter and Kurzweil) is reversing the process. Digitize biology, then rebuild using that digital information.

    Definitely a challenging step given physical nature of things of genes and proteins… but if you crack that code, nature does the rest via self assembly.

    I’m very bullish about the future of the Digital Bio / Synthetic Bio field… G-

    Posted by: Garry Golden   January 23, 2009
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    Posted by: kajalbansal066   April 16, 2018
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