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The science behind the biofuel controversy

Maheshwari, Ramesh (2008) The science behind the biofuel controversy. In: CURRENT SCIENCE, 95 (5). pp. 594-602.

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At the current rate of use the crude oil reserves of the world are predicted to deplete in about 40 years. Therefore, it has become necessary to find and devise methods of processing a renewable raw material for conversion into transportation fuel. Some countries are manufacturing ethanol from sugarcane or cereal grains and blending it with petrol to reduce crude oil imports. This entails diverting agriculturally productive land for the production of fuel. An alternative is to use inedible plant biomass as raw material. Although plant biomass is mostly cellulose, it is covered and occluded by hemicelluloses and lignin. This greatly limits the access of microbial cellulases required to depolymerize cellulose and release glucose for production of alcohol by yeast-mediated fermentation. A possible solution may be based on the reactions that take place in the rumen of herbivores. These animals have symbiotic bacteria which have multienzyme particles called cellulosomes attached onto their surface. The cellulosomes tear down the ingested plant material into soluble compounds from which the host animal makes milk and meat. Genetic engineering techniques offer the possibility of enhancing the biodegradative action of cellulosomes by reconstituting cellulosomes with potent enzymes from different microbial species. Fast-growing species of grasses specifically grown on marginal land could provide ethanol feed stock for biorefineries.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright for this article belongs to Current Science
Keywords: bacteria; biofuel; biomass; cellulose; cellulosome; fungi
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences
Date Deposited: 31 Dec 2008 07:34
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 04:51
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/16368

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