Uncommon Experts Bugs Know Biofuel Production

Scientists are generally a highly educated lot, but they’re learning a thing or two about biofuel production from insects (that never even went to school). Then again, nature knows what it’s doing, so the researchers are smart to pay attention.

Pichia stipitis is a yeast found in the belly of a beetle that can efficiently convert wood to ethanol.

Pichia stipitis is a yeast found in the belly of a beetle that can efficiently convert wood to ethanol.

recent article in Biomass Magazine highlights the work of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who are studying new ways of converting biomass to biofuel. The scientists are studying enzymes found in leaf-cutter ant colonies because the ants are pros at turning plant biomass into food for energy.

Biofuel research at the Forest Products Lab has also been advanced by little crawly critters. Yeast discovered in the gut of wood-digesting beetles has been found to efficiently convert biomass to ethanol. The most recent findings in this arena, which highlight a yeast that can simultaneously coferment glucose, cellobiose, and xylose, were published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.