Gribble Worms Help Produce Biofuel from Waste
The lowly Gribble worm, a plague to seafarers for centuries because it ingests dead wood, might make a huge difference in biofuel production. The worms are a source of enzymes that break down C5 and C6 sugars to help produce an economical strain of biofuel. Sustainable Bioenergy Center researchers at The University of Portsmouth and University of York published a paper in this month's National Academy of Sciences showing the Gribble worm produces an abundance of bacteria in its stomach. This secretion is precisely the type of enzyme that can break down cellulose in dead organic materials such as wood and straw so liquid biofuels can be processed in a great enough volume to make them feasible as a replacement for fossil fuels.
The Gribble worm approach addresses the problem of how to break down 'second generation' biofuels from waste products to reduce the amount of agricultural land used to produce biofuel crops, lessening potential bio-crop environmental damage. "This may provide clues as to how this conversion could be preformed in an industrial setting," lead researcher Professor Simon McQueen-Mason said in a recent interview with UPI.