Catalysis may initiate almost all modern industrial manufacturing processes, but catalytic activity on solid surfaces is poorly understood. This is especially true for the cellulase enzymes used to release fermentable sugars from cellulosic biomass for the production of advanced biofuels. Now, researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) through support from the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) have literally shed new light on cellulase catalysis.
Using an ultrahigh-precision visible light microscopy technique called PALM – for Photo-Activated Localization Microscopy – the researchers have found a way to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails that can boost the yields of sugars for making fuels. Increasing the sugar yields from cellulosic biomass to help bring down biofuel production costs is essential for the widespread commercial adoption of these fuels. (more…)