WASHINGTON (TIP): Researchers are manufacturing genetically modified fungi to produce significantly cheaper biofuel. Biofuel is often obtained from starchy plants — but this places fuel production in competition with food production. At the Vienna University of Technology , genetically modified mold fungi are created, which have the ability to break down long cellulose and xylan chains into smaller sugar molecules .
This could make the production of biofuel a lot cheaper. Lignocellulosic waste such as sawdust or straw can be used to produce biofuel — but only if the long cellulose and xylan chains can be successfully broken down into smaller sugar molecules. To do this, fungi are used which, by means of a specific chemical signal, can be made to produce the necessary enzymes. Because this procedure is, however, very expensive, researchers have been investigating the molecular switch that regulates enzyme production in the fungus.
As a result, it is now possible to manufacture genetically modified fungi that produce the necessary enzymes fully independently, thus making biofuel production significantly cheaper. Manufacturing biofuel from lignocellulose is therefore a preferable option.