Friday, December 8, 2006

Engineered Yeast Speeds Ethanol Production

Researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT have engineered a new strain of yeast that can improve the speed and efficiency of ethanol production, a prospect that could do much to improve the viability of ethanol as a fuel source (or fuel additive).

The work involved modifying the expression of certain genes, allowing the yeast to survive in an environment with higher levels of glucose and ethanol. Normally, the yeast is killed by the very ethanol that it creates in the fermentation process. By strengthening the yeast to survive in the presence of ethanol and glucose, the yeast can continue to produce additional ethanol.

The end result of the new process is that the same amount of yeast can produce a larger amount of ethanol, and it can do it more quickly... 50% more quickly, according to the news release.

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