Imagine if we could use waste paper in our cars instead of petroleum-based gasoline. Wouldn't that be the ultimate form of recycling? While the use of corn and soybeans in fuels is becoming increasingly popular, a paper-based gasoline is still largely just a green dream; however, the results of a recent study suggest that it may one day be a dream fully realized.
A study conducted by the University of York, University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has isolated an enzyme that can be used to convert paper to fuel. The enzyme comes from a small creature known as the gribbler. Found in coastal areas, the gribbler bores through wood at piers, docks and even on the hulls of ships. To help with its efforts, it secretes an enzyme that softens the wood.
For fuel-making, the enzyme could be useful for completing a step in the process that so far has been too expensive to make paper-based fuel a feasible option. When the enzyme from the gribbler comes in contact with paper, it helps to convert it to sugars, which then can be processed into fuels. The enzyme extracted from the gribbler can not only assist with this process with paper, but could also theoretically be used to convert scrap wood and straw into fuel.
The enzyme still needs to be studied more extensively before it could be used to assist with fuel-making on a large scale, but the study does mean that we could be one step closer to paper-base fuels.
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