November 29, 2012

Tiny bugs could supply the enzymes needed for modern bioenergy.

It's said that great things happen from small beginnings. In this case, a tiny marine crustacean could revolutionise biofuel production and usher in a new generation of liquid propellants for buses, cars and aeroplanes that would effectively be powered by wood.

A huge amount of energy is stored in woody biomass. But getting at it is harder than it sounds because of the effort needed to prise the sugars in wood out of the tough structures in which it is encased. Enter the gribble: this 2mm creature, like a very small wood louse that lives in the sea, can digest wood all by itself.