The Loh Down On Science

House Beer

A crafty microbe can turn any plant material - grass, branches, even the wood from your porch - into beer.

Talk about a house beer!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh, with the Loh Down on Science.

And news of a microbe that reduces any plant material --grass, branches, that rickety wood porch of yours--into alcohol.

The FrankenBug was created by researchers from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. They genetically tweaked a bacterium from hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, then stewed it in chemicals for about eighteen weeks.

The result is the first microbe that thrives at high temperatures AND ferments organic matter into ethanol, without unwanted side effects. Similar bacteria either produce impurities or don't function at high temperatures. They thus require expensive enzymes for proper fermentation.

This MicroBeast could transform the struggling ethanol fuel movement. In experiments, it matched the ethanol yields of commonly used microbes but used SIXTY percent less enzyme.

With fine-tuning, researchers expect to double the yield while using NO enzymes.

Moreover, instead of using corn KERNELS it could ferment nonedible corn STALKS. Or even fast-growing grasses that don't require pesticides.

We clean UP the environment, then kick back with a beer. Just like how Al Gore said. Didn't he? Guess I'd better review.


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