By Digital Journal
Genetically modified potato starch. Photo by BASF - The Chemical Company/flickr.
January 26, 2015 - A new class of enzymes can degrade previously resistant forms of starch, according to a new study. The resultant product is a source of material for making biofuels.
Starch is a polysaccharide found in food and plants. Finding ways to effectively break down all forms of starch, into usable sugars, is seen as key for the effective production of biofuels.
Biofuels include fuels manufactured from biomass conversion (such as plant matter.) Cellulosic biomass is derived from non-food sources, such as trees and grasses. There are ethical issues surrounding the use of biofuels. For example, crops that could be used to feed people are used to provide the raw materials for biofuels instead. The use of non-food sources gets around this issue; however, this brings with it some environmental concerns.
In terms of the process, starch as a key part of the collected biomass can be used as a feedstock for ethanol production. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Modern petrol engines can use petrol containing up to 10 per cent ethanol without needing any modifications.