Synthetic multi-enzyme complexes for the conversion of cellulose

One of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century is to supply a growing world population with sufficient food, raw materials and energy in accordance with our natural resources. The era of human reliance on fossil fuels will come to an end. Up to now oil, coal and natural gas are strategic raw materials in the production chain of a broad range of products including energy, chemicals, plastic, fertilizer and cloth. There is a tremendous need to replace fossil oil in order to satisfy the enormous and growing demand for energy and platform chemicals. The efficient conversion from biomass to a fossil oil substitue however is the fundamental prerequisite for the successful transition from an oil based economy to a bioeconomy.

Plant biomass has several striking advantages: it is a versatile resource for many products and it is a locally available feedstock. Its attractiveness becomes even more compelling because the use of the biomass is not in competition with nutrition when the cellulose and hemicellulose fractions are used.

The development of industrial scale enzymatic hydrolysis of hemicellulose and cellulose relies crucially on the availability of highly efficient enzymes. The increase of enyzme efficiency directly leads to a reduction of production costs – this is a mandatory requirement for the production of cost competitive products. A synthetic multi-enzyme complex mimicing the most efficient native biomass degrader, the cellulosome of anaerobic bacteria could solve this bottlneck. It readily converts cellulose and hemicellulose to sugar.

Over the last >20 years we worked on the elucidation of the native cellulosome resulting in about 70 peer reviewed publications and a great number of presentations on scientific meetings. Based on our profound knowledge and experience, the goal of this project is to develop an industrially producible synthetic cellulosome.

The project is supported by: