Researchers from the Vienna University of technology are manufacturing genetically modified fungi to produce a cheaper form of biofuel. The genetically modified mold fungi have the ability to break down long cellulose and xylan (complex long carbohydrate molecules) chains into smaller sugar molecules which makes it compatible and easier to produce biofuel from.
Biofuel is biologically obtained fuel. It is currently extracted out of starchy plants, like sugarcane or corn. The usage of these edible plants places the biofuel production in competition with food production. To eliminate this factor the lignocellulosic (plant dry matter) waste such as sawdust or straw can be used to produce biofuel. The only hurdle being that the long cellulose and xylan chains need to be broken down to smaller sugar molecules.
The researchers achieved this by using fungi which by means of a chemical signal can be made to produce the necessary enzymes. However, this process being expensive, the researchers are also investigating the molecular switch that regulates enzyme production in the fungus. The result being that the modified fungi can be produced which would create the enzymes necessary for making cheaper biofuel.