Enzyme research speeds biomass hydrolysis
Japanese researchers and VTT have worked together to discover new molecule-level information on how cellulase enzymes move when breaking down cellulose. The results are significant for example, for use of biomass, biomass hydrolysis and in material sciences.
Japanese researchers used HS-AFM atomic force microscopy to study how enzyme molecules move on the surface of the cellulose crystal. It was discovered that the enzyme molecules move on cellulose in the same direction but at different speeds, which led to “traffic jams” on the surface of the crystal. The researchers gave the enzymes more “driving lanes” by chemically changing the structure of the cellulose crystal, which improved biomass hydrolysis. The research also showed that two different types of cellulase enzymes hydrolyse crystalline cellulose completely.
The material and imaging expertise of the Universities of Tokyo and Kanazawa and the cellulolytic enzyme expertise of VTT all benefited the research. The research results were published in Science magazine – one of the most distinguished scientific publications – in the autumn of 2011.
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