Termites have figured in bio-inspiration for their air-conditioned nests which have provided a model for some architects. They now potentially have a much more widespread use for their ability to digest wood. To produce biofuels requires the breakdown of lignin and cellulose to sugars. Termites digest wood using enzymes and the August Materials World reports work by a team at Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA, led by Michael Scharf, on genetically engineered termite enzymes. At present, digestion of woody tissue for biofuels requires energy: termite enzymes introduce the possiblity of achieving digestion at ambient temperatures. So far a lab process rather than industrial chemistry, termite-enzyme digestion looks like a very promising technique for biofuels and organic feedstocks.
I'm a writer whose interests include the biological revolution happening now, the relationship between art and science, jazz, and the state of the planet