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interview > lynd > lynd 25

Lynd 25 (1:18)
Topic(s): Biofuels
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Lynd

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I remember getting interested when I was a sophomore in college, working on a farm. I remember being interested by compost heaps and the really high temperatures these things developed, and realizing that the volume of that compost, which is mostly cellulosic biomass, was getting less each day as a result of these high-temperature microorganisms. And it turns out that nature includes many microorganisms that are fantastically good at cellulose conversion.

Nature also gives us many microorganisms that are really fantastic— Well, and we've developed, over literally millennia, microorganisms that are fantastically good at ethanol production. And with modern tools, we can envision developing microorganisms that are similarly fantastically good at producing other fuels. But what nature does not give us, and humans have not yet developed, is a microorganism, or even community of microorganisms, that will combine the ability to grow on cellulose and to make fuels very well. So this is not hoping for a miracle, in the sense that we're talking about existing— combining existing biological functionalities. The essence of genetic engineering is precisely to combine biological functionalities.

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