Researchers at Virginia Tech, led by Associate Professor Percival Zhang, have developed a process by which approximately 30% of the cellulose from any plant material (including agricultural waste) can be converted into a starch known as amylose. Amylose can be used in food or as biodegradable packaging.
Cellulose and starch have the same chemical composiition – the difference being their chemical linkages. Professor Percival Zhang's team used an enzyme cascade to break up the bonds in cellulose, enabling their reconfiguration as the starch, amylose.
Amylose s a good source of dietay fibre and has been shown to decrease the risk of obesity and diabetes.
The 70% of the cellulose that is not converted into starch is hydrolyzed into glucose, which could be used to make ethanol for fuel.
The process requires no heat, costly equipment or chemical reagents and does nott produce any waste.