Sunday, January 30, 2011

Looking to the cow rumen for better biofuels enzymes

Switchgrass 1

Univ. of Illinois animal sciences professor Roderick Mackie and his colleagues found dozens of enzymes in the cow rumen that help degrade plant material. This research could help overcome a major challenge in biofuel production—finding an efficient way to release the energy stored in the plant cell wall. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

When it comes to breaking down plant matter and converting it to energy, the cow has it all figured out. Its digestive system allows it to eat more than 150 lbs of plant matter every day. Now researchers report that they have found dozens of previously unknown microbial enzymes in the bovine rumen—the cow's primary grass-digestion chamber—that contribute to the breakdown of switchgrass, a renewable biofuel energy source.

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