Researchers at the IIT Guwahati have found that a specific enzyme, RfGH5_4, produced by the bacterium Ruminococcus flavefaciens, is effective at decomposing woody biomatter into a simple sugar that can be fermented into bioethanol. This significant development could lead to fuel production from renewable biological sources, such as agricultural and forestry residues, rich in carbohydrate polymers (lignocellulose).
- Ruminococcus flavefaciens RfGH54, an endoglucanase enzyme, has been closely studied by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G).
- The enzyme converts woody biomatter into a simple sugar that can be efficiently fermented to produce bioethanol.
- Among the many biofuels known, ethanol (or ethyl alcohol) is widely studied due to its positive environmental impact.
- It is typically created through the fermentation of sugar and starch-containing raw materials.
- The investigation began in 2018 as part of Parmeshwar Gavande’s Ph.D. thesis work under the supervision of Prof. Arun Goyal.
- The study was part of a government-funded project to develop novel and efficient enzymes for sustainable bioenergy, which was funded by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology.
- Apart from bioethanol production, the multifunctionality of RfGH5 4 opens up new possibilities for its use in the textile and food industries.
- Using specific fungi or bacteria, the produced glucose is easily fermented to bioethanol.
- Prof Gavande says that instead of burning crop waste, we can use it to make bioethanol fuel.
In a groundbreaking development, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G) have discovered a new method for producing bioethanol, a renewable fuel, from woody biomatter. The team, led by Professor Arun Goyal from the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering at IIT-G, studied the efficacy of a specific enzyme, RfGH5_4, produced by the bacterium Ruminococcus flavefaciens, in breaking down the biomatter into a simple sugar that can be efficiently fermented into bioethanol.
What is the significance of this research?
The increasing demand for renewable sources of fuel and the problems associated with dwindling fossil fuel reserves and environmental pollution have led to significant scientific interest in the production of biofuels. Of the many biofuels being researched, ethanol is particularly attractive due to its positive environmental impact. Ethanol is commonly produced through the fermentation of raw materials such as grapes, barley, and potatoes, but there is also interest in developing methods for extracting bioethanol from agricultural and forestry residues and crops rich in carbohydrate polymers, known as lignocellulose.
Bioethanol production from lignocellulose involves using cellulases to deconstruct the material, with endoglucanase being one such enzyme. However, the efficiency of these enzymes is often low, and many are unable to break down hemicellulose, a component of lignocellulose. This has been a major obstacle in converting lignocellulosic biomass to bioethanol.
How does the enzyme RfGH5_4 break down woody biomatter?
The RfGH5_4 enzyme, on the other hand, is highly effective at breaking down lignocellulose into a simple sugar that can be fermented into bioethanol. In addition, the enzyme may have other potential uses, such as in food and medicine production. Agricultural residual biomasses, which are often wasted or burned, causing environmental hazards, including global warming and climate change, could potentially be deconstructed by RfGH5_4 for these purposes.
How does this method for producing bioethanol compare to current methods?
The research, which began in 2018 and was funded by the Department of Biotechnology in India, was conducted as part of a government-funded project to develop sustainable bioenergy enzymes. The team spent four and a half years studying the properties, mechanism of action, the structural basis of the enzyme’s multifunctionality, and compatibility with various agricultural residual biomasses.
Could this method for producing bioethanol be used for other purposes, such as in medicine?
According to Professor Goyal, “Bioethanol production begins with glucose as a starting material, which is converted to ethyl alcohol through the fermentation process using different fungi or bacteria. Agricultural crop residues are a wasted resource full of cellulose and other carbohydrate polymers. Using biotechnology, we can convert this biomass into bioethanol, a fuel of the 21st century.”
The research was recently published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, and the team is now working on optimizing the process for industrial production. The discovery of the RfGH5_4 enzyme represents an important step in developing sustainable bioenergy and holds promise for a future where renewable fuel sources can replace fossil fuels and reduce environmental pollution.
The research, which the Department of Biotechnology in India funded, could lead to a more efficient and environmentally friendly method for producing bioethanol. Bioethanol is a renewable fuel that positively impacts the environment and is commonly produced from sugar and starch-containing raw materials. Using RfGH5_4 to break down lignocellulose into a simple sugar that can be fermented into bioethanol could potentially replace current methods that rely on fossil fuels and contribute to environmental pollution. Additionally, this enzyme may have other potential uses, such as in food and medicine production.