The search for sustainable energy is one of the most pressing scientific needs of our time. The burning of fossil fuels currently releases approximately 21 billion tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year; this is far more than can be safely absorbed. Increased levels of CO2 cause the average temperature of the Earth to rise, creating global warming.
The majority of climate scientists agree that something needs to be done to reduce our fossil fuel consumption and, for a number of years, scientists have been engaged in a race to develop cleaner forms of energy. But now, using Diamond’s synchrotron light, a team of researchers have located a possible source of sustainable and environmentally-friendly fuel, and it comes in the form of the wood-eating gribble.
The gribble is a type of tiny crustacean. They live in the sea, and nest in shipwrecks and driftwood. Their favourite snack is wood, and they’re notorious for munching away on boats and destroying seaside piers. However, the gribble may be able to provide a new way of powering our cars, offices and homes.
Rather than trying to use the poor gribble itself, the team from University of York, University of Portsmouth, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have transferred the genetic blueprint of this particular enzyme to an industrial microbe, capable of producing it in large quantities.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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