Pest 'key' to fuel breakthrough

A wood-munching marine pest could hold the key to creating alcohol-based fuel for vehicle engines, scientists at the universities of York and Portsmouth have said.

Gribble, which resemble pink woodlice and have plagued seafarers for years by boring through ships, have a gift for digesting wood not seen in any other animal - a talent environmental researchers believe could be used to convert wood and straw into liquid biofuel.

Enzymes produced by the crustaceans to break down woody cellulose and turn it into energy-rich sugars could potentially be used to manufacture a gribble-like processing plant, scientists say, which in turn could be used to produce alcohol from raw materials.

Professor Simon McQueen-Mason, study leader for the project, claimed the study could "provide clues as to how this conversion could be performed in an industrial setting".

The Government-funded research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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