Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2011-08-25 13:00:00
  • Article ID: 579802

Panda Poop May be a Treasure Trove of Microbes for Making Biofuels

  • Credit: Credit: iStock.

    Panda poop contains bacteria that could help produce cheaper, more abundant biofuels.

Michael Bernstein

m_bernstein@acs.org

303-228-8532 (Aug. 25-Sept. 1)

202-872-6042 (Before Aug. 25)

Michael Woods

m_woods@acs.org

303-228-8532 (Aug. 25-Sept. 1)

202-872-6293 (Before Aug. 25)

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Monday, Aug. 29, 11:30 a.m., Eastern Time

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society

DENVER, Aug. 29, 2011 — Panda poop contains bacteria with potent effects in breaking down plant material in the way needed to tap biomass as a major new source of “biofuels” produced not from corn and other food sources, but from grass, wood chips and crop wastes, scientists reported today at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“Who would have guessed that ‘panda poop’ might help solve one of the major hurdles to producing biofuels, which is optimizing the breakdown of the raw plant materials used to make the fuels?” said study co-author Ashli Brown, Ph.D. “We hope our research will help expand the use of biofuels in the future and help cut dependency on foreign oil. We also hope it will reinforce the importance of wildlife conservation.”

Brown pointed out that bacteria from the giant panda are particularly promising for breaking down the super-tough plant material known as lignocellulose in switch grass, corn stalks and wood chips. That advance could speed the development of so-called cellulosic biofuels made from these tough plant materials in a way that doesn’t rely on precious food crops such as corn, soybeans and sugar now used for making biofuels, she noted.

Scientists have long known that giant pandas — like termites and cattle — have bacteria in their digestive systems to break down the cellulose in plants into nutrients. Bamboo constitutes about 99 percent of the giant panda’s diet in the wild. An adult may eat 20-40 pounds of bamboo daily — leaves stems, shoots and all. Until the energy crunch fostered interest in biofuels, however, scientists never thought to parse out exactly what microbes in the giant panda gastrointestinal system were involved in digestion.

Brown and colleagues, including graduate student Candace Williams, collected and analyzed the fresh feces of a pair of male and female pandas at the Memphis Zoo for over a year. They identified several types of digestive bacteria in the panda feces, including some that are similar to those found in termites, which are renowned for their ability to digest wood.

“Our studies suggest that bacteria species in the panda intestine may be more efficient at breaking down plant materials than termite bacteria and may do so in a way that is better for biofuel manufacturing purposes,” said Brown, who is with Mississippi State University.

Based on other studies, Brown estimated that under certain conditions these panda gut bacteria can convert about 95 percent of plant biomass into simple sugars. The bacteria contain enzymes — highly active substances that speed up chemical reactions — so powerful that they can eliminate the need for high heat, harsh acids and high pressures currently used in biofuel production processes, she said. Those processes also tend to be time- and energy-intensive, as well as expensive. Panda bacteria could therefore provide a faster, cleaner and less costly way to make biofuels.

Brown is currently trying to identify every intestinal bacterium in the giant panda in order to isolate the most powerful digestive enzymes for biofuel production and other purposes. She noted that scientists could use well-established genetic engineering technology to put the genes that produce those enzymes into yeasts. The yeasts then would produce the enzymes and could be grown on a commercial scale to provide large amounts of enzymes for a biofuel industry.

“The discovery also teaches a lesson about the importance of biodiversity and preserving endangered animals,” Brown said, noting that less than 2,500 giant pandas remain in the wild and about 200 are in captivity. “Animals and plants are a major source of medicines and other products that people depend on. When we lose them to extinction, we may lose potential sources of these products.”

The U.S. Department of Energy, The Memphis Zoological Society, the Mississippi Corn Promotion Board, and the Southeastern Research Center at Mississippi State provided funding for this study.

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society contact newsroom@acs.org.

# # #

CONTACT:

Ashli Brown, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology

Interim Director of Research and Industrial and Agricultural Services

Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State, Miss. 39762

Phone: 662-325-7814

Fax: 662-312-3220

Email: ab506@msstate.edu

ABSTRACT:

Lignocellulosic biomass is a renewable resource that can be used for biofuel production with the assistance of cellulolytic anaerobic organisms from fecal material. The ability of fecal material to degrade was shown by the treatment of biomass with giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) feces, indicating that gut flora may reduce biomass. In our study, eight bacterial groups were enumerated monthly over a fourteen-month sampling of the giant pandas to characterize the gastrointestinal flora. Colony forming units per gram fecal material for Bacteroides spp. ranged in the male and female panda from 102 to 104, values for Clostridium spp. ranged from 102 to 105. The previously unidentified Bacteroides spp. in the giant panda and Clostridium spp. may be useful in the degradation of lignocellulosic biomass and its conversion to biofuels. Further work must be conducted to identify species and to isolate cellulase genes in these organisms; metagenomic work is underway to accomplish these tasks.

X
X
X
  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Columbia Engineers Develop Floating Solar Fuels Rig for Seawater Electrolysis

Chemical Engineering Prof Daniel Esposito has developed a novel photovoltaic-powered electrolysis device that can operate as a stand-alone platform that floats on open water. His floating PV-electrolyzer can be thought of as a "solar fuels rig" that bears some resemblance to deep-sea oil rigs--but it would produce hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water instead of extracting petroleum from beneath the sea floor. (International Journal of Hydrogen Energy)

National MagLab's Latest Magnet Snags World Record, Marks New Era of Scientific Discovery

The Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has shattered another world record with the testing of a 32-tesla magnet -- 33 percent stronger than what had previously been the world's strongest superconducting magnet used for research and more than 3,000 times stronger than a small refrigerator magnet.

Clearing the Air

A greater understanding of the dynamics of chemical reactions is leading to better models of atmospheric chemistry. Through this work, scientists are gaining insight into a key chemical able to break down some major air pollutants.

The Wet Road to Fast and Stable Batteries

An international team of scientists --- including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory -- - has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation over many thousands of cycles.

Light Perfects Interfaces

Shining light on a growing semiconductor modifies its interface with the surface and could improve the optical properties of each.

Advance in Light Filtering Technology Has Implications for LCD Screens, Lasers and Beyond

Vector polarizers are a light filtering technology hidden behind the operation of many optical systems. They can be found, for instance, in sunglasses, LCD screens, microscopes, microprocessors, laser machining and more. Optical physicists published details of their new vector polarizer design this week in APL Photonics. The newly proposed design is a major advance in polarization technology because it enables flexible filtering of a wide range of light sources and generation of new light states.

Accelerating the Self-Assembly of Nanoscale Patterns for Next-Generation Materials

Scientists have come up with a way to massively speed up the ordering process for self-assembling materials. The resulting ultra-small, well-ordered patterns could be used in the fabrication of microelectronics, antireflective surfaces, magnetic data storage systems, and fluid-flow devices.

Beta of Neurodata Without Borders Software Now Available

Neuroscientists can now explore a beta version of the new Neurodata Without Borders: Neurophysiology (NWB:N 2.0) software and offer input to developers before it is fully released next year.

Scientists Discover Path to Improving Game-Changing Battery Electrode

Researchers from Stanford University, two Department of Energy national labs and the battery manufacturer Samsung created a comprehensive picture of how the same chemical processes that give cathodes their high capacity are also linked to changes in atomic structure that sap performance.

ESnet's Petascale DTN Project Speeds up Data Transfers between Leading HPC Centers

A new Petascale Data Transfer Node project aims to to achieve regular disk-to-disk, end-to-end transfer rates of one petabyte per week between major supercomputing facilities, which translates to achievable throughput rates of about 15 Gbps on real world science data sets.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

LLNL Releases Newly Declassified Nuclear Test Videos

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) released 62 newly declassified videos today of atmospheric nuclear tests films that have never before been seen by the public.

NAU Researchers Join DOE Project to Study the Soil Microbiome and Its Effect on Carbon Persistence

NAU Regents' Professor Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss), recently joined a new initiative lead by LLNL to study how the soil microbiome controls the mechanisms that regulate the stabilization of the organic matter in soil.

Four Scientists Win the Los Alamos Medal

Los Alamos National Laboratory will award four former researchers with the Los Alamos Medal for their scientific contributions.

Stewart Prager Honored with FPA Distinguished Career Award

Announcement of Fusion Power Associates career award for Stewart Prager

WVU Physicists Among Collaborators Granted $7 Million to Form U.S. Department of Energy Center of Excellence

Scientists pause each afternoon at Kirtland Air Force Base in Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, awaiting the daily lightning flash and unmistakable floor jolt that accompanies a Z shot

US Dept. Of Energy Grant to Advance Combined Heat and Power Systems in the Midwest

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help industrial, commercial, institutional and utility entities evaluate and install highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) technologies.CHP, also known as cogeneration, is a single system that produces both thermal energy and electricity.

Applications Open: ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship 2018-2019

ECS, in a continued partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

Successful Startup Founder to Lead Entrepreneurship Program at Argonne

John Carlisle has been named the director of Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI), a program aimed at accelerating job creation through innovation, based at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

Department of Energy Supports Argonne Nuclear Technologies

This fall, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced nearly $4.7 million in funding for the department's Argonne National Laboratory across 16 projects in three divisions. Four of those TCF awards, representing more than $1 million in funds, are slated for Argonne's Nuclear Engineering division.

Southern Research Develops Gasifier Technology to Unlock Coal's Potential

Southern Research has been selected to receive nearly $1.7 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding to develop a new, cost-efficient gasifier capable of converting low-grade coal into synthesis gas (syngas) that can be used in a number of applications.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Molecular Mousetraps Capture More Nuclear Waste

Cage-like molecules with internal chemical hooks remove three times more hazardous radioactive iodine compounds than current methods.

New Quantum Liquid Crystal--In the Driver's Seat

Lasers reveal a new state of matter--the first 3-D quantum liquid crystal.

Chemical "Pressure" Tuning Magnetic Properties

Unexpectedly, a little chemical substitution stabilizes unusual magnetic phase of vortexes called skyrmions.

Stirring up a Quantum Spin Liquid with Disorder

New, unexpected paradigm discovered: Disorder may actually promote an exotic quantum state, with potential for ultrafast computing.

Light Perfects Interfaces

Shining light on a growing semiconductor modifies its interface with the surface and could improve the optical properties of each.

Underappreciated Microbes Now Get Credit for Holding Down Two Jobs in Soil

Soil microbes work as both decomposers and synthesizers of carbon compounds in soil, offering new answers with impacts to crops and eco-health.

Energy, Economy, and the Earth: The Benefits of Creating Feedback Loops

Scientists reduce uncertainties in future climate prediction by directly coupling an energy-economy model to an Earth system model.

How Grasslands Regulate Their Productivity in Response to Droughts

Scientists show that grasslands are more sensitive to changes in the amount of moisture in the air than to changes in precipitation.

Building Confidence in Hydrologic Models

Scientists evaluate seven hydrologic models to understand how each model agrees and differs.

El Nino and Liquid Water Clouds Contribute to Antarctic Melt in 2015-2016

Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) observations provide clues on atmospheric contributions to an Antarctic melt event.


Spotlight

Tuesday October 03, 2017, 01:05 PM

Stairway to Science

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

After-School Energy Rush

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 28, 2017, 10:05 AM

Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Thursday September 21, 2017, 03:05 PM

From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday September 07, 2017, 02:05 PM

Students Discuss 'Cosmic Opportunities' at 45th Annual SLAC Summer Institute

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday August 31, 2017, 05:05 PM

Binghamton University Opens $70 Million Smart Energy Building

Binghamton University, State University of New York

Wednesday August 23, 2017, 05:05 PM

Widening Horizons for High Schoolers with Code

Argonne National Laboratory

Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Tuesday November 08, 2016, 12:05 PM

Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday May 13, 2016, 04:05 PM

More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Monday April 25, 2016, 05:05 PM

Giving Back to National Science Bowl

Ames Laboratory

Friday March 25, 2016, 12:05 PM

NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Tuesday February 02, 2016, 10:05 AM

Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Monday November 16, 2015, 04:05 PM

Rare Earths for Life: An 85th Birthday Visit with Mr. Rare Earth

Ames Laboratory

Tuesday October 20, 2015, 01:05 PM

Meet Robert Palomino: 'Give Everything a Shot!'

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Tuesday April 22, 2014, 11:30 AM

University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

University of Utah

Wednesday March 06, 2013, 03:40 PM

Student Innovator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Seeks Brighter, Smarter, and More Efficient LEDs

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday November 16, 2012, 10:00 AM

Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

Texas Tech University

Wednesday November 23, 2011, 10:45 AM

Don't Get 'Frosted' Over Heating Your Home This Winter

Temple University

Wednesday July 06, 2011, 06:00 PM

New Research Center To Tackle Critical Challenges Related to Aircraft Design, Wind Energy, Smart Buildings

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday April 22, 2011, 09:00 AM

First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device Heats Home, Saves Money

Wake Forest University

Friday April 15, 2011, 12:25 PM

Like Superman, American University Will Get Its Energy from the Sun

American University

Thursday February 10, 2011, 05:00 PM

ARRA Grant to Help Fund Seminary Building Green Roof

University of Chicago

Tuesday December 07, 2010, 05:00 PM

UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

University of California San Diego

Monday November 01, 2010, 12:50 PM

Rensselaer Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center Announces First Deployment of New Technology on Campus

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday September 10, 2010, 12:40 PM

Ithaca College Will Host Regional Clean Energy Summit

Ithaca College

Tuesday July 27, 2010, 10:30 AM

Texas Governor Announces $8.4 Million Award to Create Renewable Energy Institute

Texas Tech University

Friday May 07, 2010, 04:20 PM

Creighton University to Offer New Alternative Energy Program

Creighton University

Wednesday May 05, 2010, 09:30 AM

National Engineering Program Seeks Subject Matter Experts in Energy

JETS Junior Engineering Technical Society

Wednesday April 21, 2010, 12:30 PM

Students Using Solar Power To Create Sustainable Solutions for Haiti, Peru

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Wednesday March 03, 2010, 07:00 PM

Helping Hydrogen: Student Inventor Tackles Challenge of Hydrogen Storage

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Thursday February 04, 2010, 02:00 PM

Turning Exercise into Electricity

Furman University

Thursday November 12, 2009, 12:45 PM

Campus Leaders Showing the Way to a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future

National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Tuesday November 03, 2009, 04:20 PM

Furman University Receives $2.5 Million DOE Grant for Geothermal Project

Furman University

Thursday September 17, 2009, 02:45 PM

Could Sorghum Become a Significant Alternative Fuel Source?

Salisbury University

Wednesday September 16, 2009, 11:15 AM

Students Navigating the Hudson River With Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Wednesday September 16, 2009, 10:00 AM

College Presidents Flock to D.C., Urge Senate to Pass Clean Energy Bill

National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Wednesday July 01, 2009, 04:15 PM

Northeastern Announces New Professional Master's in Energy Systems

Northeastern University

Friday October 12, 2007, 09:35 AM

Kansas Rural Schools To Receive Wind Turbines

Kansas State University

Thursday August 17, 2006, 05:30 PM

High Gas Prices Here to Stay, Says Engineering Professor

Rowan University





Showing results

0-4 Of 2215