Science Makes Wood Edibile

#Food

Fri, Jun 7th, 2013 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to NPR, "Scientists have figured out how to turn cellulose from wood, bushes and grasses into edible starch" solving "how risky growing food has become because of the finite resources it requires: land, water, seeds and fertilizer."

What if we could convert the cellulose in this plentiful biomass to edible starch, which makes up 50 to 60 percent of the human diet? Maybe a technology like that could feed people while reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.

In a published this spring with colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Zhang explains a process he developed to transform solid cellulose -- which could come from wood, grass or crop residue (like corn husks) -- into a carbohydrate called amylose.

The process is a form of and relies on enzymes to break down the cellulose into smaller units and then restitch the molecules into starch. That means the final, edible food product -- a powder that Zhang says tastes sweet -- is completely synthetic but resembles other complex carbohydrates like corn starch.

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