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Gene finding could up ethanol production

Aug. 15, 2011 at 9:01 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've identified a gene controlling ethanol production in microorganisms, a finding that could mean higher ethanol yields at lower costs.

The discovery could be the missing link in developing biomass crops capable of more efficient and economical conversion to ethanol, a U.S. Department of Energy release said Monday.

The discovery by scientists at the department's BioEnergy Science Center of the gene controlling ethanol production in a microorganism known as "Clostridium thermocellum" means scientists can experiment with genetically altering biomass plants to produce more ethanol.

Scientists, including those at BESC, have been working toward creating tailor-made microorganisms that produce their own enzymes to unlock the plant's sugars and ferment them into ethanol in a single step.

"This discovery is an important step in developing biomass crops that could increase yield of ethanol, lower production costs and help reduce our reliance on imported oil," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

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