Conversion of cellulosic biomass (non-edible plant material) to products such as chemical feedstocks and liquid fuels is a major goal of industrial biotechnology and an essential component of plans to move from an economy based on fossil carbon to one based on renewable materials. Many microorganisms can effectively degrade cellulosic biomass, but attempts to engineer this ability into industrially useful strains have met with limited success, suggesting an incomplete understanding of the process. The recent discovery and continuing study of enzymes involved in oxidative depolymerisation, as well as more detailed study of natural cellulose degradation processes, may offer a way forward.

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