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Groups of Bacteria More Efficient at Degrading Cellulose than Single Bacteria
Dr. Richard Sparling - University of Manitoba

University News for October 6, 2010

A researcher with the University of Manitoba says the effectiveness of using microorganisms to break down cellulose to produce biofuels can be enhanced by combining groups of bacteria rather than relying on one single microorganism.

Researchers representing a range of disciplines from the University of Manitoba, the University of Waterloo, Ryerson University, the University of Saskatchewan and collaborators in the United States and New Zealand have been working to identify and characterize bacteria capable of converting the sugars in cellulose into ethanol, hydrogen, butanol and other compounds that can be used as biofuels.

Dr. Richard Sparling, an associate professor in microbiology with the University of Manitoba, says scientists have been somewhat successful in identifying potential candidate organisms.

Clip-Dr. Richard Sparling-University of Manitoba:
What we have found that is kind of neat and interesting is that we have organisms that seem to tag along with the cellulose degrader that seem to actually make the process go faster and so we're thinking a bit of a mindset change away from the individual wonderful perfect organism to maybe there is a co-culture or a small population of different organisms that we can put together that would work better.

It's basically like ourselves.

I'm a microbiologist, my colleagues are biosystems engineers and we seem to be working together more effectively.

It seems that the same thing happens with bacteria, that the cellulose degrader seems to like to have helpers around to actually produce end products faster.

Dr. Sparling says the biggest challenge has been yield.

He says the most efficient cellulose degraders produce multiple compounds so one challenge is to focus the metabolic pathways of the bacteria to produce higher yields of the desired compounds.

For UniversityNews.Org I'm Bruce Cochrane.

*University News is a presentation of the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural & Food Sciences

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