Al writes "A tiny cellulose-eating bacterium found a few years ago in the Chesapeake Bay has been genetically modified to help it break down cellulose and convert the results into the sugars needed to make ethanol. Scientists analyzed the organism's genome in 2003 and found that it possessed a combination of enzymes that simultaneously break down the tough cell walls in dead plants and convert the remaining cellulose into sugars. Recently, Zymetis completed its first successful commercial-scale trial using the bug. The company ran the modified microbe through a series of tests in large fermenters and found that it could convert one ton of cellulosic plant fiber into sugar in 72 hours. The microbe's main advantage is its ability to naturally combine two major steps in the ethanol process, which the company says could considerably slash the high costs of producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass like switchgrass, wood chips, and paper pulp. The piece includes a video of the company's CEO discussing the project."
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